October test found bacteria in Cape May drinking water, says annual report

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CAPE MAY — In October, the Cape May City Water Department found total coliform bacteria in a sampling of drinking water.

Staff did more testing and those results came back negative, according to a recently released 2013 annual drinking water quality report.

Carl Behrens, superintendent of Cape May’s water and sewer utility, said there’s no cause for alarm. The water is safe to drink, he said.

More than 4,500 customers in Cape May, West Cape May and Cape May Point are serviced by the water utility.

The presence of total coliform bacteria is used as an indicator that other, potentially harmful bacteria could be in the water, according to the annual drinking water quality report. Total coliform bacteria is found in soils, plants and animals, and Behrens indicated that it can easily get into the samples.

One of the types of total coliform bacteria is fecal, found in intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals. That has not been found in the drinking water, but would be a major concern if that happened, he said.

The department tests for total coliform bacteria each week, and if it is found, it’s time for action instead of concern, he said.

“It’s always worrisome, of course,” Behrens said.

He said the drinking water quality in Cape May, West Cape May and Cape May Point surpasses regulations set by the state Department of Environment Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The water system serves around 4,700 customers and draws its water supply is from five wells.

"We at the Cape May Water Department work hard to provide top quality water to every tap. We ask that all our customers help us protect our water resources, which are the heart of our community, our way of life and our children's future," reads the annual report.

Behrens said he believes that the water utility provides some of the best drinking water in South Jersey, and the city has a national award to prove it. Cape May’s drinking water won first in a state contest and took third in a federal contest third place 10 years ago, he said.

Behrens said he plans to enter the competition this year.

Property owners will receive postcards later this year on the drinking water quality report, he said. The report is available at www.capemaycity.org .

For more information, call Behrens at 609-884-9575.

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