Disease Causing Organisms


Definition:

A Disease-Causing Organism is a micro-organism that can make you sick if you eat it, inhale it, or come into contact with it (get it on your skin, or in your ears, etc).

Standards for disease-causing organisms in Louisiana are based on a group of bacteria called fecal coliform bacteria. These bacteria are used for detecting the level of disease-causing organisms and untreated sewage in water. Fecal coliform bacteria come from intestines of warm-blooded animals. However, there can be problems with using these bacteria as indicators of sewage levels when there are large numbers of wildlife near a waterbody. Some waterfowl use the Barataria and Terrebonne Watershed during the winter and can be the cause for high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in waterways.

 

Why does it cause pollution? 

Disease-causing organisms contaminate water. They can make you sick if you play in, swim in, or drink this water. They can also make you sick if you eat raw shellfish, like oysters, that are contaminated from being harvested in contaminated water. Disease-causing organisms do not affect everybody the same way; they are most dangerous to people who have weak immune systems or are frequently sick. Not all bacteria and viruses will make you sick, but this website tells you if the waterbody you are interested in using has problems with disease-causing organisms.

 

How does it get into water?

Disease-causing organisms get into the water from untreated sewage. When people go to the bathroom they create waste called sewage. Every home, school, and business is required by law to have some way of treating its sewage or transporting it to a sewage treatment system.

In a city, the sewage is transported to a large sewage treatment plant. Sometimes raw sewage can contaminate water when storms flood or break the large ponded treatment areas, or when the transport pipes break. Also, people let their pets make waste (poop) on sidewalks and the street. When it rains, their pets’ waste runs off into storm drains and out into bayous, lakes, and bays.

In an area that is outside of the city, a person who owns a home or business has to have their own sewage treatment system. Just like a car, a sewage treatment system gets old and breaks. In addition, sewage treatment systems can fill up. Just like a car, they have to be maintained. If the system gets too old, breaks, fills up, or doesn’t treat sewage well anymore, the owner should replace it so that raw sewage doesn’t contaminate the water. But frequently these individual treatment systems do contaminate water.

In rural areas animals are sometimes grown for food. When these animals leave their waste on the ground it can get washed off during rain storms into bayous, lakes, and bays. The more animals are put into the same area, the more disease-causing organisms from the waste can go into the water.

 

What land uses are the source of this type of pollution in the B-T Basin?

  • Urban Runoff
  • Untreated Sewage
  • Waterfowl

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