EPA Proposes New Tests to Detect Four Types Of Bacteria In Wastewater, Sewage Sludge

EPA is proposing new test procedures for laboratories to use in Clean Water Act (CWA) monitoring programs to lead to the detection of four types of bacteria in wastewater and sewage sludge.

This proposal, announced on Aug. 10, would add new and revised analytical methods for the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and enterococci found in wastewater, and fecal coliforms and Salmonella found in sewage sludge. The bacteria are seen as "health indicators" that point to possible contamination and the need for further investigation and treatment.

Until now, no EPA-approved tests were available to detect these bacteria in wastewater. The new tests will yield results within 24 hours and provide treatment facilities with an indication of the effectiveness of their treatment techniques.

"These tools have proved reliable through extensive testing and verification. They will increase our confidence in test results that detect bacteria in waste water and sewage sludge," said EPA Assistant Administrator Ben Grumbles. "Once these procedures are in place, they will better protect the public, particularly children who are often more vulnerable to bacteria-caused illnesses in water."

EPA is requesting comment on the technical merit, applicability and implementation of these proposed methods. In addition, we are asking for comments and data to be submitted on any other analytical methods that examines these bacteria in wastewater or sewage sludge.

Agency officials stated they are proposing new test methods in response to comments received on two previous rulemakings. The commentors requested that the agency make approved bacterial methods available for wastewater. Approving these methods will help states to implement monitoring requirements under the BEACH Act of 2000 and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. EPA also is proposing to revise test methods for fecal coliforms and Salmonella in sewage sludge, a decision is based on results from studies conducted by nationwide laboratories showing that the method provides comparable and acceptable results in multiple laboratory settings. These revised test methods include new quality control criteria that can be used by laboratories to demonstrate that the data generated are acceptable measures of performance.

As of press time, the proposal has not yet been published in the Federal Register. Information about this and other water analytical methods are available at http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/methods.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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