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Is There Bacteria In Tampa’s Tap Water?

There are no specific examples recently of bacterial contamination in Tampa’s tap water if you are served by the municipal system. However, it’s important to note that water quality can change. Monitoring and treatment are necessary to maintain safe drinking water.

Additionally, if you are on well water in the Tampa Area, bacteria could be a concern if you are not getting your water tested regularly. Culligan offers EPA-approved well testing for less than $100.

While bacteria like coliform and algae blooms are present in Tampa Bay, these are not typically a concern for the city’s drinking water supply. The water treatment process, including chlorination, chloramines, or UV treatment, successfully eliminates most of these contaminants.

How Does Tampa Water Department Test For Bacteria?

Tampa’s drinking water is tested for harmful bacteria. According to the 2022 Water Quality Report, Tampa Water Department conducts over 33,500 water quality tests annually and collects over 8,000 samples. The Tampa Water Department regularly tests for Cryptosporidium and Giardia in raw water (untreated water). While 25% of raw water samples contained these organisms, the multi-step disinfection process is designed to remove them before the water reaches consumers

Could Bacteria Enter My Tap Water?

Despite Tampa’s public water utilities providing water that meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards, tap water is not sterile and could theoretically be contaminated with bacteria and germs. These germs can multiply inside home pipes, especially if the water sits still for long periods. For instance, if there are faucets in your basement, guest rooms, or spaces that you don’t use daily, these germs can multiply.  

What Bacteria Could Live In Tampa’s Tap Water?

Both harmless and harmful bacteria can make their way into your home through your tap water. So which is which?

The Most Common Types of Bacteria In Tap Water

Total Coliform – A bacterium that is naturally occurring and commonly found in the environment.  This is usually a harmless bacterium, however, it can indicate the presence of more harmful coliforms such as fecal coliform. 

Fecal Coliform – This bacterium originates from human or animal waters typically creating contamination through agricultural runoff. If ingested, fecal coliform can cause stomach issues and is especially dangerous to children, pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals.

E.Coli – E. Coli is a form of fecal coliform that similarly creates contamination through agricultural runoff and causes stomach problems.

Legionella – Legionella is an issue when aerosolized and can cause lung infections if inhaled. This bacteria usually enters water supplies through runoff during storms and floods.

Giardia & Cryptosporidium – These bacteria are common globally and are parasites. If ingested, they can cause severe gastrointestinal issues. These bacteria enter water supplies through agricultural runoff and poor sanitation.

did you know? bacteria graphic

Harmful Bacteria Found In Water Supply

While some germs in your tap water are harmless, others can prove to be concerning to your health, such as:

  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria cause lung, blood, or skin infections.
  • Legionella spp. leads to lung infections.
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa can infect blood, lungs, or skin.
  • Naegleria fowleri causes brain infections.
  • Acanthamoeba spp. can infect the brain and eyes.

Who Can Water Bacteria Contaminated Water Harm?

Most healthy people do not get sick from these germs, but certain groups are more vulnerable to falling ill from bacteria according to the CDC, including:

  • People aged 50 or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • Those with chronic lung diseases (e.g., COPD)
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems due to health conditions or medications (e.g., cancer)
  • People with diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure
  • Infants under 6 months old
  • Contact lens wearers

Bacteria Outbreaks in Tampa

A 2024 report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) highlights concerns about the safety of tap water in the U.S., despite having one of the world’s safest public water systems. The report reveals that waterborne infections, particularly those caused by pathogens like Legionella, pose a significant health risk. The CDC reported 54 Florida outbreaks, totaling 162 cases and 119 hospitalizations. Of these, 15 deaths were caused by the bacteria. The CDC recommends measures such as boiling water or using NSF-certified filters to mitigate these risks.

The Hidden Dangers of Waterborne Bacteria in Your Tampa Home

Keeping your drinking water safe is crucial to your health and safety. Some water contaminants are not visible to the naked eye but did you know that germs like bacteria, fungi, and amoebas can form a slimy, glue-like substance called a biofilm in your home’s water system? This film allows these germs to stick to surfaces and survive standard water treatment chemicals like chlorine, which Tampa Bay’s water department uses to treat your water.

What Are the Signs of Bacteria Contamination in Tap Water?

Be on the lookout for common signs of bacteria contamination in your water such as:

  • Odor: Does your water have an unusual odor? It is common for water that is contaminated with bacteria to smell like rotten eggs.
  • Discoloration: Cloudy water can be a symptom of contaminated water.
  • Rust Stains: Rust stains on water fixtures and drains can be caused by contamination.

But how will you know for sure that your water is contaminated? Get a free water analysis!

Five Ways to Protect Yourself from Bacteria Contamination In Your Tampa Tap Water

There are a few ways to protect your home and family from bacteria in your drinking water.

  1. Flush Your Faucets and Shower heads: If you haven’t used a faucet or shower head in over a week, flush it before use. Turn on the cold water fully and let it run for 2 minutes, then switch to hot water and run it until it feels hot.
  2. Clean and Maintain Water Devices: Regularly clean devices that use water to remove dirt and germs. This includes things such as coffee pots, humidifiers, and water purifiers. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and maintenance.
  3. Set the Water Heater Temperature: Keep your water heater temperature between 130-140°F to kill harmful bacteria like Legionella. Be cautious of scalding risks, especially for young children and older adults. Consider using thermostatic valves to mix cold and hot water at faucets and showers.
  4. Flush the Water Heater: Regularly flush your water heater to prevent germ growth and prolong its life. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or hire a professional to do this annually, before moving into a new home, after plumbing work, or if the water is discolored.
  5. Water Filtration Systems: Culligan Whole House Filtration Systems are designed to treat water at the point of entry into your home, providing filtered water to every faucet. They can effectively remove bacteria, as well as other contaminants, making your home have safer, cleaner, water.

By understanding the risks and taking these preventive steps, you can help ensure that your home’s water remains safe and clean for everyone.