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Populations of bacteria in biofilms from different sites of a drinking water production system were analysed. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analyses revealed changing DNA band patterns, suggesting a population shift during bank filtration and processing at the waterworks. In addition, common DNA bands that were attributed to ubiquitous bacteria were found.

Biofilms even developed directly after UV disinfection (1–2 m distance). Their DNA band patterns only partly agreed with those of the biofilms from the downstream distribution system. Opportunistic pathogenic bacteria in biofilms were analysed using PCR and Southern blot hybridisation (SBH). Surface water appeared to have a direct influence on the composition of biofilms in the drinking water distribution system.

In spite of preceding filtration and UV disinfection, opportunistic pathogens such as atypical mycobacteria and Legionella spp. were found in biofilms of drinking water, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa was detected sporadically. Enterococci were not found in any biofilm. Bacterial cell counts in the biofilms from surface water to drinking water dropped significantly, and esterase and alanine-aminopeptidase activity decreased.

β-glucosidase activity was not found in the biofilms. Contrary to the results for planktonic bacteria, inhibitory effects were not observed in biofilms. This suggested an increased tolerance of biofilm bacteria against toxic compounds.