In 2004, a public-health nuisance was declared by the Wayne County Board of Health in the Scenic Heights Drive-Batdorf Road area of Wooster Township, Wayne County, Ohio, because of concerns about the safety of water from local wells. Repeated sampling had detected the presence of fecal-indicator bacteria and elevated nitrate concentrations. In June 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), collected and analyzed samples from some of the affected wells to help investigate the possibility of human-origin bacterial contamination. Water samples from 12 wells and 5 home sewage-treatment systems (HSTS) were collected. Bromide concentrations were determined in samples from the 12 wells. Samples from 5 of the 12 wells were analyzed for wastewater compounds. Total coliform, enterococci and Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria concentrations were determined for samples from 8 of the 12 wells. In addition, two microbial source-tracking tools that employ DNA markers were used on samples from several wells and a composite sample of water from five septic tanks. The DNA markers from the Enterococcus faecium species and the order Bacteroidales are associated with specific sources, either human or ruminant sources.
Bromide concentrations ranged from 0.04 to 0.18 milligrams per liter (mg/L). No wastewater compounds were detected at concentrations above the reporting limits. Samples from the 12 wells also were collected by Ohio EPA and analyzed for chloride and nitrate. Chloride concentrations ranged from 12.6 to 61.6 mg/L and nitrate concentrations ranged from 2.34 to 11.9 mg/L (as N).
Total coliforms and enterococci were detected in samples from 8 wells, at concentrations from 2 to 200 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters (CFU/100 mL) and 0.5 to 17 CFU/100 mL, respectively. E. coli were detected in samples from three of the eight wells, at concentrations of 1 or 2 CFU/100 mL. Tests for the human-specific marker of enterococci, the esp gene, were negative in the seven samples tested, including the composite sample of HSTS water. DNA with the general Bacteroidales marker was detected in samples from four wells, but the tests for both the human- and ruminant-associated markers were negative. The presence of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) -detectable DNA for the general fecal Bacteroidales marker is indicative of fecal contamination and recently recharged water.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Use of DNA Markers for Investigating Sources of Bacteria in Contaminated Ground Water: Wooster Township, Wayne County, Ohio