How to keep drinking water safe from `little animals`

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Courtesy of O2 Environmental Inc.

Disease causing agents can be broken up into three groups, Bacteria, Viruses and Protozoa. Cryptosporidium belongs to the third group, Protozoa. The word protozoa comes from the Greek word for ‘little animal’.

One aspect of Cryptosporidium which makes it problematic from a water treatment perspective is that at one stage in its life cycle it produces small spore like bodies known as cysts. These cysts have a hard outer wall which makes them resistant to chlorine and they can survive for months in a cold, damp environment.

There are a number of different strains of Cryptosporidium, but two in particular, Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis, are responsible for most cases of human cryptosporidiosis. Cryptosporidium hominis is almost exclusively a human pathogen while Cryptosporidium parvum can be transmitted by cattle.

There are a number of important points worth making in relation to Cryptosporidium:
1. It is a relatively new problem,
2. It is difficult to test for,
3. Faecal coloforms are not good indicators for it and
4. Chlorine does not kill it.

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