The coffee shop is a great place to hang out, you can catch up with friends, or do a little business while enjoying a little chemical stimulation.
Well, thanks to our passion for caffeine, coffee “watering holes” are springing up around trendy neighbourhoods in fish land too.
Human poo adrift
Wastes generated by human physiology are potential health risks, due to the presence of some real nasty bugs. In theory, this human excrement should all be channelled to the sewage facilities which are designed to clean it up.
But, slips ups happen.
Spotting these slip ups is tricky.
The coliform test
Currently, the presence of human poo is assumed when water samples have high levels of a group of bacteria which typically reside in our gut. The family grouping are known as coliforms, the poster boy for the group is a bacteria known as E.coli.
High coliform counts mean trouble.
But coliforms can arrive in the water without human intervention. Both wild animals and domestic animals can boost coliform counts.
Telling coliforms apart ?
Officials in the city of Montreal wanted to clean up the city’s drains. To clean up, they needed help tracking down the origin of the water running through the city’s storm water system.
They solicited a little help from University of Montreal’s chemistry department, who began by collecting water samples from several spots on the Island of Montreal.
The team analyzed the water samples for caffeine, coliforms and carbamazepine (an anti-epileptic drug), since neither caffeine nor carbamazepine should be present in water coming from agriculture or industry, their presence would indicated human contamination.
Caffeine going down the drain
All three “indicators” were present in the water samples they analyzed. Yikes !
The levels of caffeine were strongly linked with the number of bacteria present in the water sample. Carbamazepine levels showed no patterns.
Based on these findings the research team concluded, anytime caffeine is detected in a water sample, that sample has been through a set of human kidneys not so long ago.
The caffeine discovery will help authorities track down leaking sewage pipes in the future.
Stimulate the fishes
It is estimated that it will take a few weeks to 2-3 months for the caffeine you drink to be degraded. We know caffeine gives bees a productivity boost. Let’s hope the fishy wildlife also appreciate your deposits and end up getting a little bit of an energy boost too.Fecal coliforms, caffeine and carbamazepine in storm water collection systems in a large urban area. Chemosphere, (2012) 86(2) : 118-123. Sébastien Sauvé, Khadija Aboulfadl, Sarah Dorner, Pierre Payment, Guy Deschamps, Michèle Prévost
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