Table_2_Physicochemical Parameters and Alarming Coliform Count of the Potable Water of Eastern Himalayan State Sikkim: An Indication of Severe Fecal Contamination and Immediate Health Risk.DOCX

Continuous decline in potable water sources has raised serious concerns over human health. Developing countries are the most affected in this regard due to a lack of proper hygiene maintenance. Sikkim, an Eastern Himalayan state with mountains as the predominant topological features, harbors several perennial natural springs. Spring water is the primary source of potable water for the population in four districts of the state viz. East, West, North and South. Recent outbreaks of water-borne diseases and the relative lack of scientific studies on its potential correlation with the water quality of the area have educed this study. Physicochemical parameters of springs, community reservoirs, and household water were analyzed by ICP-MS and multi probe meter. Using the membrane filtration method, the microbial quality of the water samples during different seasons was assessed, primarily evaluating the presence of fecal indicators viz. Escherichia coli, total coliform and Enterococcus. The seasonal risk category of the water sources was also determined. Most of the physicochemical parameters of the spring water were within the permissible limits of WHO standards. However, water from four districts was recorded with traces of toxic heavy metals like mercury (0.001–0.007 mg/l), lead (0.001–0.007 mg/l), and selenium (0.526–0.644 mg/l), which are above the permissible limits of WHO. All the spring water samples were categorized as Mg-HCO3- type and can be predicted as shallow fresh ground water based on the piper analysis. Microbial confirmatory testing indicated severe fecal contamination of water sources with high counts of total coliform (TC), Escherichia coli (EC) and Enterococcus (EN). The highest level of TC was recorded from West Sikkim (37.26 cfu/100 ml) and the lowest in North Sikkim (22.13 cfu/100 ml). The highest level of contamination of E. coli and Enterococcus was found in East Sikkim (EC = 8.7 cfu/100 ml; EN = 2.08 cfu/100 ml) followed by South Sikkim (EC = 8.4 cfu/100 ml; EN = 2.05 cfu/100 ml). There was a significant positive correlation between the contamination levels of the spring water and the community reservoir tank. As far as the seasonal variation is concerned, the rainy season showed the most contamination with coliform correlating with a high incidence of different water-borne diseases (East = 86%; West = 100%; South = 100%; North = 80%).