Learn How To Screen For Sewage Contamination

Testing for Sewage Indicator Organisms

This is a short course which has been designed to provide practical, general-use knowledge on how to screen for sewage contamination by testing for indicator organisms. It provides practical information on what indicator organisms to look for and how to interpret lab results. Sampling and testing for indicator organisms can be done to determine if cleanup was effective after sewage contamination in a building. It can also be used to determine if recreational or drinking water are safe to use.

Cost: $45.93 CAD Buy Now

total coliform testing course

Who might benefit from this online coliforms training course?

You may benefit from this course if you are:
  • An industrial hygienist
  • An environmental consultant
  • A cleaning and restoration contractor dealing with sewage damage restoration
  • A person interested in increasing your knowledge or developing your decision-making skills related to bacteria sampling

Topics covered in the sewage screening course

Participants will learn about:

  1. Sewage Contamination
  2. Health Risks Associated With Exposure To Sewage Contamination
  3. Routes of Exposure To Sewage Microorganisms
  4. Screening Sewage For Pathogenic Bacteria
  5. Characteristics of a Good Indicator organism
  6. Types of indicator organisms
  7. Which Indicator Organisms to test for
  8. Sampling Requirements
  9. Sampling Procedure and Sample Handling
  10. Results Interpretation
  11. Estimated levels of indicator organisms in raw sewage
  12. Drawbacks of Using Coliforms As Indicators of Fecal Contamination.

Cost: $45.93 CAD Buy Now

How long does it take to complete the online coliforms training course?

The course is designed to take ½-day (about 4 hours). However, to make it flexible and convenient to fit into your busy schedule, we don't limit the time you take to complete the course. You can complete the course in a day or a week if you wish.

How is the online coliforms training course taught?

The course consists of slide presentations.

Are certificates awarded?

Upon successful completion, a certificate is prepared and mailed to the course participant. Be sure to send us your mailing address after you complete the course.

How to register for the course

1: Pay for the course by clicking the BUY BUTTON below. A notification will be sent to us confirming your payment.

2: After paying you'll be redirect to a page with clear instructions on how to create an account. If you are not redirected to the page with instructions, contact us by phone or email.

3: Once you create an account, we shall give you access to the course. The courses are available 24/7 from anywhere with access to internet connection. Enjoy!

Background Information

Indicator bacteria types and what they can tell you

Common sewage contamination indicator bacteria include total coliforms, fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli (E. coli), fecal streptococci, and enterococci.

Total coliforms

Members of the total coliform group can occur in human feces. Some can also be found in animal manure, soil, and submerged wood and in other places outside the human body. Thus for the total coliforms to be useful as an indicator of sewage contamination it has to be fecal and human in origin. For recreational waters, total coliforms are no longer recommended as an indicator. For drinking water, total coliforms are still the standard test because their presence indicates contamination of a water supply by an outside source.

Fecal coliforms

Fecal coliforms also contain bacteria that are not necessarily fecal in origin. For example, Klebsiella are commonly associated with textile and pulp and paper mill wastes. Therefore, if these sources discharge to your stream, you might wish to consider monitoring more fecal and human-specific bacteria. For recreational waters, Fecal coliforms were the primary bacteria indicator until relatively recently. E. coli and enterococci are recomended as better indicators of health risk from water contact.

E. coli

E. coli is a species of fecal coliform bacteria that is specific to fecal material from humans and other warm-blooded animals. EPA recommends E. coli as the best indicator of health risk from water contact in recreational waters.

Fecal streptococci

Fecal streptococci generally occur in the digestive systems of humans and other warm-blooded animals. In the past, fecal streptococci were monitored together with fecal coliforms and a ratio of fecal coliforms to streptococci was calculated. This ratio was used to determine whether the contamination was of human or nonhuman origin. However, this is no longer recommended as a reliable test.


Enterococci belong to the fecal streptococcus group. Enterococci are distinguished by their ability to survive in salt water. Enterococci are typically more human-specific than the larger fecal streptococcus group. EPA recommends enterococci as the best indicator of health risk in salt water used for recreation and as a useful indicator in fresh water as well.

How You May Apply Knowledge Gained In This Course

The Total Coliform Bacteria test is the standard microbiological test of the sanitary quality of drinking water. In most cases, Coliform bacteria are not harmful. However, if these bacteria are found in water supply, this indicates that other disease causing bacteria may enter through the same pathway and be present in drinking water.

If Coliform bacteria are found, the water supply is considered a potential health hazard and is classified as "UNSAFE" for human consumption. Drinking water contaminated with E. coli is considered an "EXTREME HEALTH HAZARD".

The test results are reported as "PRESENT" or "ABSENT"

"ABSENT" — Good news, it means that Coliform bacteria were NOT in the test sample. In other words it "PASSED" the test.

"PRESENT" — Means that Coliform Bacteria were found in the sample and it "FAILED" the test. If Coliforms were found in the sample then E.coli (as a member of the Coliform Group) is also reported as "Present" or "Absent".

Coliforms "Present" and E. coli "Absent" — Very Unsafe — Potential Health Hazard.

Coliforms "Present" and E. coli "Present" — "EXTREME HEALTH HAZARD".

If the water system fails, the first step is usually to perform a "batch chlorination" on the drinking water supply. After the chlorination procedure has been performed, the water supply can be used for a minimum of 5-7 days and retest. Until you have a test which shows that the bacteria are ABSENT, exercise caution with this system. It is recommended that you test for Coliform bacteria at least every six months.

Cost: $45.93 CAD Buy Now