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NAPLES, Italy — Samples taken from some off-base houses rented to Americans here have turned up the presence of coliform bacteria in the drinking water, Navy officials said.

Coliform bacteria typically are found in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals, including humans, according to the national Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. Results from sampling 107 houses recently showed that tap water in 29 of the houses had bacteria levels exceeding the maximum contaminant levels allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Coliforms mostly are harmless bacteria that live in soil and water and the guts of humans and animals. The bacteria are associated with human and animal waste, and the presence of fecal coliform in water is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination, according to the CDC’s Web site.

Under the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act, which Navy experts are using for their health assessment in Naples, the maximum contaminant levels are zero, said Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Snyder, a spokeswoman with Navy Region Europe. Results ranged from one to 200.5 CFU/mL, or Colony Forming Units per milliliter of water, Snyder wrote in a response to questions regarding the water testing.

"Regardless of the actual number, EPA rules trigger various actions based on the presence of coliforms. Different actions are based on whether total coliforms are found verses fecal coliform," she wrote.

The presence of fecal coliform, one of three forms of coliform, was noted in some of the samples, which prompted the Navy to advise the residents to stop using tap water for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth and to "go on bottled water," she said in an interview. The results also prompted officials to retest the water supply at the 29 houses.

Symptoms from water-borne illness may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, jaundice or fatigue, Snyder wrote. "Please note that these symptoms may be caused by factors other than unsafe water. Symptoms may appear as early as a few hours to several days after infection and may last more than two weeks."

Of the 29 houses with presence of bacteria in the water supply, 18 are serviced by well water, Snyder said. Of the 11 houses tested that are on city water systems, six are located in the Parco Artimide Navy-leased housing area in Lago Patria, Snyder said. "While they are on city water, the water is collected in a cistern before distributed to the homes," she said.

Of the 29 houses, 17 are in Casal di Principe, nine in Villa Literno (including the six in Parco Artimide), two in Pozzuoli and one in Caserta, she said.

The coliform bacteria will not likely cause illness, however, their presence in drinking water indicates that disease-causing organisms could be in the water system, the CDC reports. There are three kinds of coliform bacteria: total coliform, fecal coliform and Escherichia coli, or E. coli.

The Navy also has cautioned anyone who lives off base in the Naples and Caserta regions to avoid drinking, cooking or brushing their teeth with tap water.

The Navy posted a fact sheet of the water sampling and information on coliform bacteria on its Web site on Thursday at:

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