Biofouling: Can It Trigger Allergies From Drinking Water?

One of the most common physical occurrences in marine science is the accumulation of   microorganisms, algae, mussels, seaweed, plants and other water-related growth that is attached to the hull of ships or on the posts of a pier. Such undesirable growth decreases the performance of a ship and increases fuel consumption. This accumulation is called biofouling or microbiological fouling. Biofouling consists of biofilms, which under normal circumstances are harmless, but can be problematic when they produce build-up on pipes and wells, or completely clog water filtration systems.

Waterborne bacteria and other contaminants can trigger allergic reactions, but you can do something to thwart these harmful pollutants from infiltrating your drinking water supply. Water test kits are available to easily check for waterborne contaminants in your drinking water. If you are in an area where you experience more comprehensive problems with your drinking water, then you will probably need an expert to test your water and advise accordingly. Often water-related allergies associated with biofouling result from improperly maintained water filtration systems, cartridges, filters or membranes that are long overdue for replacement.

Cooling towers, water distribution networks and membranes are not immune to biofouling. If membrane filtration or reverse osmosis systems contain the presence of a huge amount of phosphate, this could reduce production of your system, decrease the life of the membrane for your water filter system and increase maintenance costs. In a cooling tower, the presence of biofouling can lead to an excessive amount of harmful bacteria growth and migration. Biocides are used to prevent biofouling in cooling towers, but could create an environmental concern.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established enforceable standards to apply to public water systems called National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR). According to the EPA, primary standards protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water. The typical agents for microbiological fouling include iron, sulfur-reducing and slime producing organisms, although many others exist. Your drinking water will contain some type of sediment, rust, scale or other waterborne pollutants that could create an environment for biofouling in the walls and membrane of your filtration system. This could lead to water-related allergies or diseases if precautions and proper maintenance are not taken ahead of time.