Environment Protection Agency (EPA) rules are very clear in prohibiting any confirmed E coli or fecal coliform bacteria in tap water. FDA has not adopted this prohibition, but rather set a maximum number of total coliform bacteria in bottled water with no specific prohibition on fecal coliform bacteria or E coli contamination in bottled water. EPA’s tap water rules require disinfection and filtration for cities such as Moberly that use surface water. Disinfection is used to kill bacteria (e.g. coliform and Legionella) and viruses.
The filtration removes certain protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia (parasites). Larger cities, those with a population of 100,000 and over, are required to test for bacteria over 100 times per month. Moberly, which serves a population of fewer than 13,000 runs a minimum of 15 coliform bacteria tests per month. FDA rules for bottled water plants, even those filling many thousands of bottles per day, require testing for coliform bacteria only once per week. EPA’s municipal tap water regulatory standards for several chemicals are also much stricter than the standards for bottled water. To date, FDA has not set standards or treatment techniques for acrylamide, asbestos, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) or epichlorohydrin, all of which EPA strictly regulates in tap water.