The implication of invertebrates found in drinking water distribution networks to public health is of concern to water utilities. Previous studies have shown that the bacteria associated with the invertebrates could be potentially pathogenic to humans. This study investigated the level and identity of bacteria commonly associated with invertebrates collected from the drinking water treatment systems as well as from the main pipelines leaving the treatment works. On all sampling occasions bacteria were isolated from the invertebrate samples collected. The highest bacterial counts were observed for the samples taken before filtration as was expected. There were, however, indications that optimal removal of invertebrates from water did not always occur. During the investigation, 116 colonies were sampled for further identification. The isolates represent several bacterial genera and species that are pathogenic or opportunistic pathogens of humans. Diarrhoea, meningitis, septicaemia and skin infections are among the diseases associated with these organisms. The estimated number of bacteria that could be associated with a single invertebrate (as based on average invertebrate numbers) could range from 10 to 4000 bacteria per organism. It can, therefore, be concluded that bacteria associated with invertebrates might under the worst case scenario pose a potential health risk to water users. In the light of the above findings it is clear that invertebrates in drinking water should be controlled at levels as low as technically and economically feasible.

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