Groundwater viruses in Minnesota drinking water wells

Science Center Objects

In Minnesota, 74% of the State’s population relies on groundwater to supply their drinking water. Outbreaks of waterborne viral illness have been associated with groundwater, and surveys show that 30 percent of drinking water wells may be contaminated. LIDE is helping the State determine the occurrence of groundwater-borne viruses and the risk of illness in Minnesota groundwater.

In Minnesota, 74% of the State’s population relies on groundwater to supply their drinking water; and 95% of community public water systems use groundwater. Outbreaks of waterborne viral illness have been associated with groundwater sources of drinking water, and national surveys show that about 30 percent of drinking water wells may be contaminated with viruses that can make people sick (Minnesota Department of Health, 2014). To determine the occurrence of viruses and the risk of illness in Minnesota groundwater, the State legislature requested a targeted study of groundwater-borne viruses.

Phase I (completed): LIDE determined the occurrence of enteric pathogens in Minnesota public water systems supplied by non-disinfected groundwater. LIDE performed qPCR analyses for human enteric viruses, zoonotic (passed between animals and humans) bacteria, bovine fecal markers, and fecal indicators on samples from 82 randomly selected public water wells that were sampled every two months for a year.

Phase II: LIDE will evaluate the accuracy of fecal indicators and Minnesota’s well vulnerability assessment tool for predicting pathogenic contamination. Data from this study will help determine if virus contamination from groundwater wells presents a human health risk in Minnesota.

LIDE’s role:

  • Provided guidance to the State on study design and execution
  • High sample through-put allowed analysis of over 450 water samples for 19 human and bovine viruses, zoonotic bacteria, and fecal indicators in the study’s first year
  • Trained collaborators in sample collection techniques, assembled high-volume water sampling units, and provided technical support for field work
  • High-volume sampling techniques allowed detection of low virus concentrations
  • LIDE’s laboratory information management system was used to organize sample data, facilitate data analysis, examine data quality, and provide data summaries

 

This project is part of the Minnesota Groundwater Virus Study and the Minnesota WAVE Study.

Minnesota Department of Health, 2014, Clean Water Fund: Keeping Minnesota Healthy: Minnesota Department of Health, 11 p. (last accessed August 6, 2014)