KNOXVILLE, Tenn., May 31 (UPI) — U.S. researchers found viruses and bacteria in East Tennessee drinking water before it was treated, a finding that may be a warning for untreated home wells.
Researchers at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville linked the contamination of the community water sources’ limestone — karst — aquifers to human feces.
“Karst aquifers have long been recognized as having high susceptibility to fecal contamination because they have features, such as sinkholes and caverns, which act as pathways for rapid flow and transport of contaminants,” Larry McKay said in a statement.
The study, published online in advance of print in a special edition of the journal Pathogens and Fecal Indicators in Ground Water, pointed out all eight of the sampled wells and springs were used for public water supply — water that is treated before distribution so the contamination in the study represented no direct risk to consumers.
However, the researchers say the results point to the health hazard potential of non-treated water.
“The real concern is for the numerous small non-community water systems and household wells, where local residents typically drink groundwater that hasn’t been filtered or disinfected,” McKay said. “It’s likely that many of these residents are being exposed to waterborne fecal contamination, both bacterial and viral, but it isn’t clear how big a health risk this represents. Local and regional research is needed to assess the health impacts.”
Fecal contamination of the water may create no symptoms in some, while others may become seriously ill or even die, McKay noted.
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