The presence-absence coliform test for monitoring drinking water quality.
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The presence-absence coliform test for monitoring drinking water quality.

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    Public Health Rep
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    The concern for improved monitoring of the sanitary quality of drinking water has prompted interest in alternative methods for the detection of total coliform bacteria. A simplified qualitative presence-absence test has been proposed as an alternate procedure for detecting coliform bacteria in potable water. In this paper data from four comparative studies were analyzed to compare the recovery of total coliform bacteria from drinking water using the presence-absence test, the multiple fermentation tube procedure, and the membrane filter technique. The four studies were of water samples taken from four different geographic areas of the United States: Hawaii, New England (Vermont and New Hampshire), Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Analysis of the results of these studies were compared, based upon the number of positive samples detected by each method. Combined recoveries showed the presence-absence test detected significantly higher numbers of samples with coliforms than either the fermentation tube or membrane filter methods, P less than 0.01. The fermentation tube procedure detected significantly more positive samples than the membrane filter technique, P less than 0.01. Based upon the analysis of the combined data base, it is clear that the presence-absence test is as sensitive as the current coliform methods for the examination of potable water. The presence-absence test offers a viable alternative to water utility companies that elect to use the frequency-of-occurrence approach for compliance monitoring.
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