The relative chlorine sensitivities of bacteria isolated from chlorinated and unchlorinated drinking water distribution systems were compared by two independent methods. One method measured the toxic effect of free chlorine on bacteria, whereas the other measured the effect of combined chlorine. Bacteria from the chlorinated system were more resistant to both the combined and free forms of chlorine than those from the unchlorinated system, suggesting that there may be selection for more chlorine-tolerant microorganisms in chlorinated waters. Bacteria retained on the surfaces of 2.0-microns Nuclepore membrane filters were significantly more resistant to free chlorine compared to the total microbial population recovered on 0.2-micron membrane filters, presumably because aggregated cells or bacteria attached to suspended particulate matter exhibit more resistance than unassociated microorganisms. In accordance with this hypothesis, scanning electron microscopy of suspended particulate matter from the water samples revealed the presence of attached bacteria. The most resistant microorganisms were able to survive a 2-min exposure to 10 mg of free chlorine per liter. These included gram-positive spore-forming bacilli, actinomycetes, and some micrococci. The most sensitive bacteria were readily killed by chlorine concentrations of 1.0 mg liter-1 or less, and included most gram-positive micrococci, Corynebacterium/Arthrobacter, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas/Alcaligenes, Flavobacterium/Moraxella, and Acinetobacter
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