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Comparative analysis of microbiological and heavy metal

characteristics of tap and borehole water in owerri, Imo State, Nigeria


Keywords:
Comparative, analysis, microbiological, heavy metal, tap, borehole, water.
ABSTRACT:

The comparative analysis of microbiological and heavy metal characteristics
of tap and borehole water in Owerri was carried out. The mean total aerobic
plate count for the borehole water ranged from 2.48 0.02 Log
10
cfu/mL to
2.58 0.05 Log
10
cfu/mL while the tap water ranged from 2.00 0.01 Log
10
cfu/mL to
2.42 0.05 Log
10
cfu/mL. The mean coliform count for borehole and tap water ranged
from 2.04 0.02 Log
10
cfu/mL to 2.38 0.10 Log
10
cfu/mL and 1.20 0.03 Log
10
cfu/mL
to 1.46 0.30 Log
10
cfu/mL respectively. The mean fungal counts for borehole and tap
water ranged from 1.95 0.06 Log
10
cfu/mL to 2.20 0.04 Log
10
cfu/mL and
1.65 0.05 Log
10
cfu/mL to 2.24 0.08 Log
10
cfu/mL respectively. The Escherichia coli,
Salmonella-Shigella and Vibrio cholerae mean counts for both the borehole and tap
water samples were 0 0.00 Log
10
cfu/mL respectively. The microorganisms isolated
were Proteus sps, Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella sps Geotrichum sps,
Aspergillus sps and Fusarium sps. The mean values for arsenic, barium, cadmium,
mercury and nickel in both the borehole and tap water were <0.001 0.00mg/mL.
The mean values for the other metals in borehole and tap water were Chromium,
0.008 0.002mg/L and <0.001 0.00mg/L; Copper, 0.230 0.019mg/L and
0.194 0.012mg/L; iron, 0.915 0.010mg/L and 0.542 0.090mg/L; lead,
0.004 0.002mg/L and <0.001 0.00mg/L; manganese, 0.111 0.009mg/L and
0.092 0.010mg/L and zinc, 0.420 0.030mg/L and 0.272 0.020mg/L respectively.
The result showed that the water samples were contaminated and should be treated
before consumption.
047-055 | JRPH | 2012 | Vol 1 | No 2
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www.jhealth.info
Journal of Research in
Public Health
An International
Scientific Research Journal
Authors:
Eze VC
1
and Okeke CO
2
.



Institution:
1. Department of
Microbiology, Michael
Okpara University of
Agriculture, Umudike,
PM.B.7267, Umuahia,
Abia State, Nigeria.

2. Department of
Microbiology, Madonna
University, Elele Campus,
Rivers State, Nigeria.




Corresponding author:
Eze VC.




Email:
mekus2020@gmail.com




Web Address:
http://www.jhealth.info/
documents/PH0010.pdf.


Dates:
Received: 15 Aug 2012 Accepted: 22 Sep 2012 Published: 30 Oct 2012
Article Citation:
Eze VC and Okeke CO.
Comparative analysis of microbiological and heavy metal characteristics of tap and
borehole water in owerri, Imo State, Nigeria.
Journal of Research in Public Health (2012) 1(2): 047-055
Original Research
Journal of Research in Public Health
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An International Scientific Research Journal


INTRODUCTION
Drinking water or potable water is the water
pure enough to be consumed or used with low risk of
immediate or long term harm. The water supplied to
households, commerce and industry in most developed
countries is all of drinking water standard, although only
a very small proportion is actually consumed or used in
food preparation. Water is essential for the survival of
all the organisms and has always been an important and
life-sustaining drink to humans. Water composes
approximately 70% of the human body by mass
excluding fat. It is a crucial component of metabolic
processes and serves as a solvent for many bodily
solutes. Drinking water with a variety of qualities is
bottled. Bottled water is sold for public consumption
throughout the world. Humans in most parts of the
world have inadequate access to potable water and use
sources contaminated with disease vectors, pathogens
or unacceptable levels of toxins or suspended solids.
Drinking or using such water in food preparation leads
to widespread acute and chronic illnesses and is a major
cause of death and misery in many countries. Reduction
of waterborne diseases is a major public health goal in
developing countries (Greenhalgh, 2001; USEPA, 2005).
The availability of water has become a critical
and urgent problem in many developing countries This
is a matter of great concern to families and communities
depending on non-public water supply system
(Okonko et al ., 2008). Increase in human population has
exerted an enormous pressure on the provision of safe
drinking water especially in the areas of the developing
countries (Umeh et al., 2005). There is a great variation
in the quality of water that comes out of our taps.
Depending on the country and the region, water comes
from different, sometimes mixed, sources - surface
water, underground sources or even desalinated
seawater, as is the case in the Middle East. It undergoes
disinfection and chemical treatments, such as chlorine
addition that affect the original taste of the water. The
processes and level of monitoring vary greatly
throughout the world. This water then flows through
pipes made of different materials that date from
different times and are hermetically sealed to varying
degrees, all of which greatly influence the quality of the
water that arrives in a home (Nestle Waters, 2009).
Unsafe water is a global public health threat, placing
persons at risk for a host of diarrheal and other diseases
as well as chemical intoxication (Hughes and Koplan,
2005; Agbabiaka and Sule, 2010). Unsanitary water
particularly has a devastating effect on young children in
the developing world. Nearly 90% of diarrhoeal related
deaths have been attributed to unsafe or inadequate
water supplies and sanitation conditions affecting a
large part of the worlds population.
The most common contamination of raw water
sources in most parts of the world is from human
sewage and particularly human faecal pathogens and
parasites. It was estimated in 2006, that waterborne
diseases cause 1.8 million deaths each year and about
1.1 billion people lacked proper drinking water. It is then
obvious that people in the developing world need to
have access to good quality water in sufficient quantity,
water purification technology and availability and
distribution systems for water. The only source of water
in many parts of the world are from small streams,
which are often contaminated directly by sewage (WHO,
2005; Hughes and Koplan, 2005; CDC, 2006, Ihejirika,
2011).
The principal objectives of municipal water are
the production and distribution of safe water that is fit
for human consumption (Lamikanra, 1999; Okonko
et al., 2008). Recently in Nigeria drinking water is
commercially available in easy-to-open 50-60mL
polythene sacks Known as sachet/pure water
Eze and Okeke,2012
048 Journal of Research in Public Health (2012) 1(2): 047-055
(Umeh et al., 2005). Confirmation with microbiological
standard is of special interest because of the capacity of
water to spread diseases within a large population.
Although the standard varies from place to place, the
objective is to reduce the possibility of spreading water
borne disease in addition to being pleasant to drink,
which implies that it must be wholesome and palatable
in all respects (Edema et al., 2001; Okonko et al., 2008,
Ihejirika et al.,2011). A collaborative interdisciplinary
effort to ensure global access to safe water, basic
sanitation and improved hygiene is the foundation for
ending cycle of poverty and diseases (Hughes and
Koplan, 2005).
The aim of this study is therefore to analyze the
microbiological and physicochemical characteristics of
borehole and tap water sources in Owerri municipal,
Imo State, Nigeria.

MATERIALS AND METHODS
Collection of Samples
The water samples were collected aseptically
from 10 different boreholes and taps within the Owerri
municipality using sterile containers. They were
transported to the laboratory in an ice packed cooler
and immediately analyzed on reaching the laboratory.


Chemical Reagents
The chemical reagents employed in the study
were of analytical grade and were products of BDH
Chemicals, Pooles England and Sigma Chemical
Company St. Louis Missouri, USA. The microbiological
media used were products of Oxoid and DIFCO
Laboratories, England. They included nutrient agar used
for the estimation of total heterotrophic aerobic
bacteria, purification of isolates and for stock culture;
Sabouraud dextrose agar used for the isolation of fungi
and MacConkey agar for the isolation of coliforms,
eosin methylene blue agar for Escherichia coli,
Salmonella-Shigella agar for Salmonella-Shigella count,
thiosulphate citrate bile sucrose agar for Vibrio cholerae
count and Sabouraud dextrose agar for fungal count.
Enumeration of Total Heterotrophic Bacteria and Fungi
The borehole and tap water samples were serially
diluted in ten folds. Total viable heterotrophic aerobic
counts were determined using pour plate technique.
Then the molten nutrient agar, Sabouraud dextrose
agar, MacConkey agar, eosin methylene blue agar,
Salmonella-Shigella agar and thiosulphate citrate bile
sucrose agar at 45C were poured into the Petri dishes
containing 1 mL of the appropriate dilution for the
isolation of the total heterotrophic bacteria and fungi,
Eze and Okeke, 2012
Journal of Research in Public Health (2012) 1(2): 047-055 049


Log
10
cfu/mL
Sample TAPC CC EC SSC VC FC
A 2.49 0.03 2.04 0.02 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.08 0.27
B 2.58 0.05 2.38 0.10 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.20 0.20
C 2.48 0.02 2.32 0.06 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.08 0.22
D 2.52 0.32 2.34 0.20 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.95 0.23
E 2.53 0.04 2.26 0.05 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.11 0.07
F 2.45 0.02 2.20 0.05 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.95 0.06
G 2.57 0.08 2.34 0.20 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.20 0.40
H 2.51 0.06 2.36 0.02 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.04 0.02
I 2.54 0.20 2.28 0.02 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.08 0.09
J 2.56 0.07 2.24 0.02 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.18 0.10
Legend: TAPC = total aerobic plate count; CC = Coliform count; EC = Escherichia coli count;
SSC = Salmonella-Shigella count; VC = Vibrio cholerae count; FC = Fungal count
Table 1 Mean Counts of Microorganisms isolated from Borehole Water Samples


coliform, Escherichia coli, Salmonella-Shigella and
Vibrio cholerae respectively. They were swirled to mix
and colony counts were taken after incubating the
plates at 30C for 48 h and preserved by sub culturing
the bacterial isolates into nutrient agar slants which
were used for biochemical tests.
Characterization and Identification of Isolates
Bacteria isolates were characterized and identified
after studying the Gram reaction as well as cell
micro morphology. Other tests performed were
spore formation, motility, oxidase and catalase
production; citrate utilization, oxidative/fermentation
(O/F) utilization of glucose; indole and coagulase
production, starch hydrolysis, sugar fermentation,
methyl red-Voges Proskauer reaction and urease
production. The tests were performed according to the
methods of (Cheesbrough, 2005; Adeoye, 2007;
Agwung-Fobellah and Kemajou, 2007; Ochei and
Kolhatkar, 2007). Microbial identification was
performed using the keys provided in the Bergeys
Manual of Determinative Bacteriology (1994).
Determination of Heavy Metals
The heavy metals of the borehole and tap water
samples were determined using Unicam atomic
absorption spectrophotometer (Model 969, Unicam).

RESULTS
The results of the microbiological and heavy
metal characteristics of the borehole and tap water
samples are shown in Tables 1 - 5.
The mean counts of the microorganisms isolated
from the borehole water samples are shown in Table-1.
The total aerobic plate count ranged from
2.48 0.02 Log
10
cfu/mL to 2.58 0.05 Log
10
cfu/mL
while the coliform count ranged from 2.04 0.02
Log
10
cfu/mL to 2.38 0.10 Log
10
cfu/mL. The fungal
count ranged from 1.95 0.06 Log
10
cfu/mL to
2.20 0.04 Log
10
cfu/mL. The Escherichia coli,
Salmonella-Shigella and Vibrio cholerae mean counts
were 0 0.00 Log
10
cfu/mL respectively.
Table-2 shows the mean counts of the
microorganisms isolated from the tap water samples.
The total aerobic plate count ranged from
2.00 0.01 Log
10
cfu/mL to 2.42 0.05 Log
10
cfu/mL
while the Coliform count ranged from 1.200.03
Log
10
cfu/mL to 1.46 0.30 Log
10
cfu/mL. The fungal
count ranged from 1.65 0.05 Log
10
cfu/mL to
2.24 0.08 Log
10
cfu/mL. The Escherichia coli,
Salmonella-Shigella and Vibrio cholerae mean counts
were 0 0.00 Log
10
cfu/mL and has no count on it.
Eze and Okeke,2012
050 Journal of Research in Public Health (2012) 1(2): 047-055
Log
10
cfu/mL

Sample

TAPC

CC

EC

SSC

VC

FC
K 2.28 0.03 1.30 0.03 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.85 0.06
L 2.35 0.30 1.34 0.05 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.95 0.20
M 2.25 0.04 1.28 0.20 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.04 0.30
N 2.00 0.01 1.24 0.04 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.90 0.06
O 2.10 0.02 1.46 0.30 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.75 0.10
P 2.22 0.20 1.30 0.08 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.65 0.05
Q 2.30 0.10 1.26 0.10 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.00 0.20
R 2.42 0.05 1.22 0.05 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.85 0.40
S 2.40 0.06 1.32 0.22 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.24 0.08
T 2.38 0.20 1.20 0.03 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.98 0.06
Legend: TAPC = total aerobic plate count; CC = Coliform count; EC = Escherichia coli count;
SSC = Salmonella-Shigella count; VC = Vibrio cholerae count; FC = Fungal count
Table 2 Mean Counts of Microorganisms isolated from Tap Water Samples
The comparative mean counts of the
microorganisms isolated from the borehole and tap
water samples are shown in Table-3. The mean total
aerobic plate counts for the borehole and tap
water samples were 2.52 0.09 Log
10
cfu/mL and
2.27 0.21 Log
10
cfu/mL respectively. The coliform
count for the borehole water sample was
2.28 0.07 Log
10
cfu/mL while the count for the tap
water sample was 1.29 0.11Log
10
cfu/mL. The
Escherichia coli, Salmonella-Shigella and Vibrio cholerae
mean counts for both the borehole and tap water
samples were 0 0.00cfu/mL and has no count in it .
The ANOVA, P < 0.05 showed that there is significant
difference in the total aerobic plate and coliform mean
counts for both the borehole and tap water samples.
The fungal counts for the borehole and tap
water samples were 2.09 0.17 Lg
10
cfu/mL and
1.92 0.15 Lg
10
cfu/mL respectively. The ANOVA,
P < 0.05 showed that there was no significant difference
in the mean fungal count.
Table-4 shows the microorganisms isolated and
their percentage of occurrence. The microorganisms
isolated and their percentage of occurrence in both the
borehole and tap water were Proteus sps, 46.7%
and 42.1%; Staphylococcus aureus, 16.7% and
26.3%; Klebsiella sps, 36.7% and 31.6%; Geotrichum sps,
31% and 36%; Aspergillus sps, 43% and 44%;
Fusarium sps, 24% and 20% respectively.
The mean values of the heavy metals in the
borehole and tap water are shown in Table-5. The mean
values for arsenic, barium, cadmium, mercury and nickel
in both the borehole and tap water were
<0.001 0.00mg/mL respectively. The mean values for
the other metals in borehole and tap water were
Chromium, 0.008 0.002mg/L and <0.001 0.00mg/L;
copper, 0.230 0.019mg/L and 0.194 0.012mg/L; iron,
0.915 0.010mg/L and 0.542 0.090 mg/L; lead,
0.004 0.002mg/L and <0.001 0.00mg/L; manganese,
0.111 0.009mg/L and 0.092 0.010mg/L and zinc,
0.420 0.030mg/L and 0.272 0.020mg/L respectively.

DISCUSSION
The water samples were analyzed for the
presence of pathogenic and non pathogenic
microorganisms and heavy metals, which was used to
determine the level of contamination and the safety and
Eze and Okeke, 2012
Journal of Research in Public Health (2012) 1(2): 047-055 051
Log
10
cfu/L
Sample TAPC CC EC SSC VC FC
Borehole 2.52 0.09 2.28 0.07 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2.09 0.17
Tap 2.27 0.21 1.29 0.11 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1.92 0.15
Table 3 The Comparative Mean Counts of Microorganisms isolated from the
Borehole and Tap Water Samples
Legend: TAPC = total aerobic plate count; CC = Coliform count; EC = Escherichia coli count;
SSC = Salmonella-Shigella count; VC = Vibrio cholerae count; FC = Fungal count
Microorganism No. of isolates
borehole water
No. of isolates
tap water
% Occurrence
borehole water
% Occurrence tap
water
Bacteria
Proteus sps 14 16 46.7 42.1
Staphylococcus aureus 5 10 16.7 26.3
Klebsiella sps 11 12 36.7 31.6
Fungi
Geotrichum sps 9 9 31 36
Aspergillus sps 13 11 43 44
Fusarium sps 7 5 24 20
Table 4 Microorganisms isolated from the Borehole and Tap water and their percentage occurrence


suitability of the water for human consumption
(Geldreich, 2000; Agbabiaka and Sule, 2010). The high
microbial counts showed that the borehole and tap
water were polluted. The coliform values were very high
and therefore were above the WHO limit for drinking
water of 0MPN/100mL. The presence of coliform is
suggestive of human faecal contamination which may
be as a result of seepage into the broken water pipes
and the boreholes. Coliforms are known to be the most
widely used indicator organisms to determine the level
of faecal pollution of the water system. It is also an
indication of inadequate treatment or post-chlorination
system (Okafor, 1999; Agbabiaka and Sule, 2010). The
few microbial species isolated from the water samples
may reflect depth and types of materials on the passage
routes, the dissolved salt and general human activities
especially those bordering on waste disposal system
(Yates, 1985; Agwung et al., 2006). The consistent high
level of total coliform and other microbial counts is an
indication of poor microbiological quality of the water
samples. It has been observed that sterile water devoid
of microorganisms rarely exists except in the laboratory
(Ogbulie and Akujiobi, 2006).
The isolation of these bacteria in the water
samples is an indicative of feaces or related pollution
that may result from poor sanitary conditions especially
during harvesting packaging storage and transport of
the product. Staphylococcus aureus is a normal flora of
the body and mucous membrane and a common
aetiological agent of septic arthritis (Ellen and Sydney,
1990; Eze et al., 2008). The consumer is at risk of
acquiring food borne diseases. Staphylococcus aureus is
the major cause of staphylococcal food poisoning. The
poisoning is characterized by diarrhea and vomiting
(Singleton, 1995; Frazier and Westhoff, 2004; Eze et aI.,
2008). The higher load of this organism in tap water
than in borehole water samples may be as a result of
handling of the taps and washing of hands or other parts
of the body on the taps by individuals who carry it on
their bodies as normal flora thereby leaving the
organism on the surfaces of the taps.
The fungi isolated showed that fungi could
survive in water, which agrees with the finding that
almost all classes of fungi have representatives in water
(Okafor, 1999; Agwung et al., 2006).
The heavy metal contents of both the borehole
and tap water with exception of iron were within the
WHO limit of potable water (WHO, 2006). The
accumulation of this metal in the water should be
minimized to avoid the toxic effect on human and other
animal species. It was observed that the value of the
iron was higher in tap water samples than in borehole
water samples. This may be attributed to the corrosion
of iron or steel pipes or other components of the
plumbing system where the acidity of the water
measured as pH is below 6.5. The reddish brown
Eze and Okeke, 2012
052 Journal of Research in Public Health (2012) 1(2): 047-055
Parameter Borehole water Tap water WHO Standard
Arsenic (mg/L) <0.001 0.00 <0.001 0.00 0.01
Barium (mg/L) <0.001 0.00 <0.001 0.00 0.7
Cadmium (mg/L) <0.001 0.00 <0.001 0.00 0.003
Chromium (mg/L) 0.008 0.002 <0.001 0.00 0.05
Copper (mg/L) 0.230 0.019 0.194 0.012 1-2
Iron (mg/L) 0.915 0.010 0.542 0.090 0.3
Lead (mg/L) 0.004 0.002 <0.001 0.00 0.01
Manganese (mg/L) 0.111 0.009 0.092 0.010 0.1-0.5
Mercury (mg/L) <0.001 0.00 <0.001 0.00 0.001
Nickel (mg/L) <0.001 0.00 <0.001 0.00 0.02
Zinc (mg/L) 0.420 0.030 0.272 0.020 3.0
Table 5 Mean values of the Heavy Metal Characteristics of the Borehole and Tap Water Samples
precipitate or particles that appear and settle to the
bottom of the tap water is as a result of the presence of
dissolved ferrous iron. It also gives water a disagreeable
metallic taste. The use of more resistant
polyvinylchloride pipes to avert the problem is
recommended (Eze and Okpokwasili, 2008; Kiely, 1998;
Quinn, 2010).
All the sampled water was contaminated with
microorganisms and the levels of contamination were
above the maximum permissible limits of World Health
Organization (WHO, 2004). It then follows that these
waters, not potable as water intended for human
consumption should be free from colour, taste,
hardness and microbial, chemical and other physical
contaminants (Nwaugo et al., 2006; Okoli et al., 2005).
Tap water should be regulated by law and treated to
guarantee that it meets certain health criteria and
should not be considered always suitable for drinking as
the case in many developing countries. Several types of
domestic filters are sold to that improve the
characteristics of tap water. Depending on the type of
filter, the protection it provides represents a more or
less reliable barrier against chemical, mineral or
bacteriological elements. Regular maintenance of this
sort of equipment is crucial to prevent the growth of
bacteria (Nestle Waters, 2009).
It is therefore the responsibility of the
government and the governed to see to the provision of
safe, clear and potable water. The essence is to improve
the public health standard of the people, which will
increase productivity, efficiency and improved social
status, but will result in low medical cost, reduced
mortality rate and economic loss.



CONCLUSION
The increase in the rate of indiscriminate
dumping of refuge, sewage disposal and other human
activities has lead to the contamination of our drinking
water systems. These activities are of public health
importance because of the diseases associated with
such dumping. It is therefore necessary that all these
activities should be controlled so that our drinking water
is always be potable.

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