Biofilms – Infecting Our Drinking Water

Eco3 Environmental Uncategorized Biofilms – Infecting Our Drinking Water

The water pipe which supplies water to your house may look a lot like the picture above. Some people look at this and just brush it off as sediment or sludge without giving much thought to what it actually is and how it is formed. Biofilm not only forms in supply lines, it also forms in your drain pipes. The most common areas in your house are in bathroom sinks and around toilet flanges. 

Municipal Water

Municipal water treatment use a variety of processes and chemicals to treat your water before sending to your house. The facility purposely put chemicals in your water to help reduce biofilm growth. This means the water entering your home is a mixture of chemicals and microbes. 

What are Biofilms?

Biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in moist environments by excreting a slimy, glue-like substance. Sites for biofilm formation include natural materials above and below ground, metals, plastics, medical implant materials, even plant and body tissue. 

Wherever you find a combination of moisture, nutrients and a surface, you are likely to find biofilm.

A biofilm community can be formed by a single bacterial species, but in nature biofilms almost always consist of many species of bacteria, as well as fungi, algae, yeasts, protozoa, other microorganisms, debris and corrosion products. 

Biofilms are held together by sugary molecular strands, collectively termed “extracellular polymeric substances” or “EPS.” The cells produce EPS and are held together by these strands, allowing them to develop complex three-dimensional, resilient, attached communities. Biofilms can be as thin as a few cell layers or many inches thick, depending on environmental conditions.

For you science geeks – These communities can form with an aerobic bacteria layer over an anaerobic layer of bacteria. In essence one layer protecting another from oxygen exposure. Also you will find certain microbes feasting off the waste products of other microbes…how amazing!

Stages of Biofilm Simplified

* Bacteria lands and attaches on a surface.

* Bacteria form a monolayer.

* A multilayer micro colony forms.

* Biofilm reaches a mature stage where microbes detach and disperse to new areas.


Given the picture above, and when you read the last biofilm stage regarding microbes detaching, what do you think this means for the water supplied to your house?     

Two phrases always ring true when is comes to your health and cannot be debated. 

1. Cleanliness is next to Godliness 

2. You are what you eat. (consume)

How does this pertain to the topic? If you are drinking unfiltered water, you are in essence drinking (consuming) a cocktail of biofilm and chemical nastiness. 

Anytime water is in mass for an extended amount of time, there is the potential for biofilm growth. This includes coffee makers with a tank, pet water bowls, water fountains, watering cans, humidifiers, oral water irrigation devices, fish bowls, sink traps, etc.

What can you do?

A whole house filter coupled with a secondary reverse osmosis filtration system will help. If you do not wish to have a filtration system consider buying bottled water for drinking. Don’t drink out of your garden hose. Use stainless steel water dishes for your pet and wash it at least once a day. Water dishes left outside are more prone to biofilm growth and faster growth. An appliance in your home which has a water tank should be properly cleaned on a regular basis. 

Look for a new biofilm oral health post in a few days!

Thanks to Montana SU for their work and information in this post!

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