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Effects of Climate and Sewer Condition on Virus Transport to Groundwater

Gotkowitz, Madeline B., Bradbury, Kenneth R., Borchardt, Mark A., Zhu, Jun, Spencer, Susan K.
Environmental Science & Technology 2016 v.50 no.16 pp. 8497-8504
climate, drought, groundwater, groundwater contamination, humans, monitoring, pathogens, sewage systems, urban areas, viruses, water quality, wells
Pathogen contamination from leaky sanitary sewers poses a threat to groundwater quality in urban areas, yet the spatial and temporal dimensions of this contamination are not well understood. In this study, 16 monitoring wells and six municipal wells were repeatedly sampled for human enteric viruses. Viruses were detected infrequently, in 17 of 455 samples, compared to previous sampling at these wells. Thirteen of the 22 wells sampled were virus-positive at least once. While the highest virus concentrations occurred in shallower wells, shallow and deep wells were virus-positive at similar rates. Virus presence in groundwater was temporally coincident, with 16 of 17 virus-positive samples collected in a six-month period. Detections were associated with precipitation and occurred infrequently during a prolonged drought. The study purposely included sites with sewers of differing age and material. The rates of virus detections in groundwater were similar at all study sites during this study. However, a relationship between sewer age and virus detections emerged when compared to data from an earlier study, conducted during high precipitation conditions. Taken together, these data indicate that sewer condition and climate affect urban groundwater contamination by human enteric viruses.