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Source and transport of human enteric viruses in deep municipal water supply wells

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Until recently, few water utilities or researchers were aware of possible virus presence in deep aquifers and wells. Over the past several years, repeated detection of enteric viruses in water from deep wells in south-central Wisconsin, shows that viruses can be significant groundwater contaminants and potentially threaten human health. During 2008 and 2009 we collected a time series of virus samples from six deep municipal water-supply wells. The wells range in depth from approximately 200 to 300 m and draw water from a sandstone aquifer. Three of these wells draw water from beneath a regional aquitard, and three draw water from both above and below the aquitard. We also sampled local lakes and untreated sewage as potential virus sources. Viruses were detected up to 61% of the time in each well sampled, and many groundwater samples were positive for virus infectivity. Lake samples contained viruses over 75% of the time. Sewage samples were all extremely high in viruses. Virus concentrations varied significantly with time, and there was apparent temporal correlation between virus detections in sewage, lakes, and groundwater. Coincidence between viral serotypes found in sewage, lakes, and groundwater suggests very rapid transport, on the order of weeks, from the source(s) to wells. The most likely source of the viruses in the wells is leakage of untreated sewage from sanitary sewer pipes.
Kenneth R. Bradbury , Mark A. Borchardt , Madeline Gotkowitz , Susan K. Spencer , Jun Zhu , Randall J. Hunt
USDA Scientist Submission
Environmental Science & Technology 2013 v.47
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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