This study investigated the source, transport, and occurrence of human enteric viruses in municipal well water, focusing on sanitary sewer sources. A total of 33 wells from 14 communities were sampled once for wastewater tracers and viruses. Wastewater tracers were detected in four of these wells, and five wells were virus- positive by qRT-PCR. These results, along with exclusion of wells with surface water sources, were used to select three wells for additional investigation. Viruses and wastewater tracers were found in the groundwater at all sites. Some wastewater tracers, such as ionic detergents, flame retardants, and cholesterol, were considered unambiguous evidence of wastewater. Sampling at any given time may not show concurrent virus and tracer presence; however, given sufficient sampling over time, a relation between wastewater tracers and virus occurrence was identified. Presence of infectious viruses at the wellhead demonstrates that high-capacity pumping induced sufficiently short travel times for the transport of infectious viruses. Therefore, drinking-water wells are vulnerable to contaminants that travel along fast groundwater flowpaths even if they contribute a small amount of virus-laden water to the well. These results suggest that vulnerability assessments require characterization of "low yield-fast transport" in addition to traditional "high yield-slow transport", pathways. ?? 2010 American Chemical Society.
Additional publication details
Assessment of sewer source contamination of drinking water wells using tracers and human enteric viruses