Bacterial colonization of drinking water: Implications for an aging U.S. water infrastructure

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Conference Proceeding

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Publication Title

Int J Infect Dis


Purpose: In 2014 the city of Flint began using water from the Flint River rather than Lake Huron in a cost-saving effort. Improper treatment resulted in corrosive water causing elevated levels of lead throughout the municipal drinking water system with grave consequences to the children living in Flint resulting in one of the country's worst anthropogenic disasters. Factors such as decreased chlorine levels were favorable to growth of various bacteria including legionella, with 91 cases of legionella pneumonia in 2014-2015 with 14 deaths reported. In response to issues with lead, PoU filters were recommended for all households in Flint. The filters were successful in reducing lead exposure; however, their effects on bacterial infections have not been studied. Methods & Materials: 10 homes in Flint with suspected cases of infection had water collected from the sink with the filter on, off, and from the shower. 10 Detroit homes were used as controls; water was collected from the kitchen sink and shower as only 1 out of 10 homes had a filter. 100 mL sterile cups were used for water collection. Results: Results of Flint samples are shown in Table 1. No pathogens were detected from Detroit water. Residents of 7/10 homes in Flint had severe pneumonia, 1 sepsis, and 1 folliculitis. 5/10 patients died. Conclusion: The results of this study showed that even two years after switch of the water back to Huron Lake, Flint municipal water showed high levels of pathogens. These results have important implications for immune compromised patients, and other cities with aging infrastructure where PoU filters are being considered.




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