Viruses and Bacteria in Karst and Fractured Rock Aquifers in East Tennessee, USA
A survey of enteric viruses and indicator bacteria was carried out in eight community water supply sources (four wells and four springs) in East Tennessee. Seven sites derived their water from carbonate aquifers and one from fractured sandstone. Four of the sites were deemed “low-risk” based on prior monitoring of fecal indicators and factors such as presence of thick layers of overlying sediments. The remaining sites were deemed “high-risk.” Enteric viruses (enterovirus and reovirus) were detected by cell culture at least once in seven of the eight wells or springs including all but one of the four low-risk sites. Viral RNA, however, was not detected in any of the samples by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Conventional indicators of microbial contamination (Escherichia coli and total coliform bacteria) were detected together with culturable viruses in seven of nine virus positive samples. Bacteroides, an alternative fecal indicator which has not previously been used in groundwater investigations, was also detected in all but one of the samples containing E. coli or total coliform bacteria, as well as in one sample where viruses were present in the absence of other bacterial indicators. The study highlights some of the challenges involved in surveys of virus occurrence and indicates that culturable enteric viruses in East Tennessee karst aquifers may be more widespread than previously observed in studies of karst aquifers in Pennsylvania (8%), the Ozark region of Missouri (< 1%), or several other states covered in a national microbial water quality survey conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (43%).
Trisha B. Johnson, Larry McKay, Alice C. Layton, Sidney W. Jones, Greg C. Johnson, Jennifer L. Cashdollar, Daniel R. Dahling, Leah F. Villegas, G. Shay Fout, Daniel E. Williams, and Gary Sayler. "Viruses and Bacteria in Karst and Fractured Rock Aquifers in East Tennessee, USA" Ground Water 49.1 (2011): 98-110.