What's lurking at the bottom of your water cooler? Did you know that more than 20% of the nation's water treatment systems have violated provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years? Only 6% of the companies breaking water regulations were actually cited.

According to the New York Times, studies indicate that "drinking water contaminates are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year."The E.P.A. is working to enforce the Clean Water Act which regulates pollution. Still, less than 8% of water systems were punished for violating arsenic and radioactive standards.

Water is important to human beings and all living organisms. A lot of money is spent on bottled water and water filters, and even though bottled water and filtered water might be contaminant free, it can quickly become contaminated in a dirty cooler. This is because bacteria grows quickly in places where there are high levels of moisture.

Did you know that a water cooler can get just as grimy as a water bottle that's left to mold in the back seat of your car? Water cooler maintenance is vital to your health. Below are some reasons why.

Science Project

One student tested water cooler water and tap water to determine which contained more bacteria. For this project, the student swabbed two Petri dishes, one with water cooler water and one with tap water. The student then monitored bacteria growth over a 5 day period. The size of the bacteria changed daily.

1. Day 2:

  • Water cooler 8.5mm of bacteria
  • Tap water: 3.5mm of bacteria

2. Day 3:

  • Water cooler: 17.5mm
  • Tap Water: 9.2mm

3. Day 4:

  • Water Cooler: 29.7mm
  • Tap Water: 15.9mm

4. Day 5:

  • Water Cooler: 43.2mm
  • Tap Water: 26.4

Clearly, the conclusive evidence shows that there is more bacteria in the water cooler water than the tap water. Why? It could be how water is processed in the factory but it can also be that the water cooler was dirty too. Bottled water tested by the National Resources and Defense Council found bottled water with HPC bacteria, arsenic, TTHMs, chloroform, and BDCM. Levels of these bacteria varied; however, on some level it's proven to be a problem.

The dangers of bacteria growth

Coliforms are present in all forms of water. Studies show that bacterial organisms are present in tap water, bottled water and cooler water.

Scientists at Boston's Northwestern University tested the bacterial count in water coolers. They found 2,000 potentially harmful organisms in every thousandth liter of water. This is nearly four times the amount of organisms limited by the government. It's not that the water wasn't fresh, water drawn from the bottles themselves was significantly lower in bacteria, it was the water dispensed through the cooler that was largely infected. The reservoirs weren't clean, and therefore, contaminated the water.

There are ways to prevent the growth of bacteria. Following a few basic cleaning tips can eliminate the problem and ensure your family that the water dispenser is in fact clean.

Water cooler cleaning

  • Unplug at least 5 minutes before cleaning
  • Drain all the water from the reservoir
  • Use a clean cloth or sponge and a solution of household bleach and water, 3 teaspoons of bleach to each gallon of water.
  • Thoroughly wipe the bottle collar, the inside of the reservoir, the top of the dispenser, the spigot in front, the grill, and inside surfaces of the drip tray.
  • Fill the reservoir with the bleach/water solution and drain 2-3 cups through the spigots, then fill the reservoir with the solution.
  • Let stand for 10-15 minutes, then drain again, rinse completely and flush thoroughly with fresh water.
  • Remove the drip tray and wash with soap and water.
  • Check the grill in the back for dust accumulation and clean if needed.
  • Place a new bottle of water back on the cooler, flush about a cup of bottled water through the spigot, and discard. Continue to rinse any excessive bleach through the spigot until clean.

This process is necessary to ensure your water cooler is as clean as the water you put in it. Another tip: dust the surface regularly as it can get inside the cooler when a bottle is replaced and contaminate the water. Furthermore, clean the water bottle before your refill the cooler to endure a healthier experience. With a little effort, you can safeguard the health of your family and enjoy fresh clean water.


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