New test methods proposed today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will lead to the detection of four types of bacteria in wastewater and sewage sludge. EPA's proposal centers on culture-based approaches to detecting enterococci and Escherichia coli (E. coli) in wastewater. Additional tests will identify salmonella and fecal coliform bacteria in sewage sludge. The bacteria are seen as “health indicators” that point to possible contamination and the need for further investigation and treatment.

Until now, no EPA-approved tests were available to detect these bacteria in wastewater. The new tests will yield results within 24 hours and provide treatment facilities with an indication of the effectiveness of their treatment techniques.

“These tools have proved reliable through extensive testing and verification. They will increase our confidence in test results that detect bacteria in waste water and sewage sludge,” says EPA assistant administrator Ben Grumbles. “Once these procedures are in place, they will better protect the public, particularly children who are often more vulnerable to bacteria-caused illnesses in water.”