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Comparison of Clark's presence-absence test and the membrane filter method for coliform detection in potable water samples.

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  • Research Article


A total of 2,601 water samples from six different water systems were tested for coliform bacteria by Clark's presence-absence (P-A) test and by the membrane filter (MF) method. There was no significant difference in the fraction of samples positive for coliform bacteria for any of the systems tested. It was concluded that the two tests are equivalent for monitoring purposes. However, 152 samples were positive for coliform bacteria by the MF method but negative by the P-A test, and 132 samples were positive by the P-A test but negative by the MF method. Many of these differences for individual samples can be explained by random dispersion of bacteria in subsamples when the coliform density is low. However, 15 samples had MF counts greater than 3 and gave negative P-A results. The only apparent explanation for most of these results is that coliform bacteria were present in the P-A test bottles but did not produce acid and gas. Two other studies have reported more samples positive by Clark's P-A test than by the MF method.

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