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Earth Medicine Science

Viruses From Sewage Contaminate Deep Well Water 93

First time accepted submitter ckwu writes "Scientists once thought that pathogens could not reach drinking water wells sunk into deep, protected groundwater aquifers. Nevertheless, over the past decade, researchers have identified diarrhea-causing viruses at a handful of deep bedrock well sites in the U.S. and Europe. Now, researchers report where these pathogenic viruses may have originated. The viruses appear to seep from sewer pipes and then swiftly penetrate drinking water wells. Experts recommend that public water systems might need to start testing for viruses on a routine basis."
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Viruses From Sewage Contaminate Deep Well Water

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  • Semantics? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dancindan84 ( 1056246 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:46PM (#43526407)

    Scientists once thought that pathogens could not reach drinking water wells sunk into deep, protected groundwater aquifers.

    And from TFA:
    Groundwater models predicted that surface contaminants would require tens to hundreds of years to reach wells in these aquifers, which typically sit more than 700 feet underground.

    They may still be right about their overall assumption, but were just wrong about those handful of wells being "protected". Basically, it's not THAT the viruses reached the aquifers (the models predicted they'd get there, but that it would take longer than the virus could survive: 700 years), it's HOW they did it so much more quickly than was modelled.

    Also from TFAs:
    Bradbury thinks that the problem probably occurs in any city with wells located under sewage pipes.

    The most likely source of the viruses in the wells was leakage of untreated sewage from sanitary sewer pipes.

    Emphasis mine. Anyone want to bet that the 700 year models were based on uncompromised pipes that didn't leak, and only calculated the time for potential contaminants to get from the sewage outlet to the well?

  • Re:Semantics? (Score:4, Informative)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:54PM (#43526493) Homepage

    In other words, in a perfect world where their idealized model actually applied, they were right.

    But in reality, they had a set of unfounded/incomplete assumptions, acted on that, and then subsequently discovered that the duck isn't perfectly spherical.

    But if anybody points out at the time that the assumptions are based on a lot of unknowns, they get dismissed as being alarmist and raising hypothetical concerns when their team of crack scienticians can pat our heads and tell us our fears are unfounded.

    By the time you figure out they had no real way of knowing if this was safe, it's too damned late.

    And in the modern context where lobbyists and special interests want to muddy the waters with their mouth-piece organizations and fake journals, they get what they want, and the rest of us will be left to deal with the consequences.

    Privatize the profits, socialize the risk is a winning formula if you can prevent people from believing the dangers posed by putting up your own "competing theory", which is usually from a bought and paid for "research institute" or "academic journal".

  • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by Doug Otto ( 2821601 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:54PM (#43526501)
    Hops are a pretty effective anti-pathogen. In most beers the alcohol content isn't significant in that regard.
  • by srobert ( 4099 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:24PM (#43526929)

    The article states that viruses in drinking water aren't regulated by the EPA. That's a bit misleading. Regulations pertaining to pathogens in surface water and ground water sources in drinking water are largely based on disinfection criteria that would remove or inactivate 99.99% of viruses from the water.,%20and%20what%20are%20their%20health%20effects []?

    Steve Robertson, PE
    Las Vegas Valley Water District
    Planning Division
    Water Quality Team

    Finally, after 15 years, a Slashdot article in my field.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @04:41PM (#43529407) Journal

    Fuck ground water, have you looked at how many fricking earthquakes AR has had in the last 15 years and then compared it to what the state saw for a century? You can just go yanking shit deep underground without causing serious problems the the stability of the ground above it, you just can't.

    Oh and I have dealt a little with the wildcatters and what you need to know is they can get away with anything because they set their businesses up from the start to be liability proof, which frankly ought to tell you something. The wildcatters OWN NOTHING as they have it set up so the least their gear, down to the last stapler, from a shell corp they have set up overseas. Its all bullshit, same guys own both corps, its set up that way so if they poison a town or seriously fuck shit up someplace they can just "burn" the original company (with zero penalty) and then make a new one the same day with a different name but the same people and equipment because that gear is owned by the shell corp.

    Its a great scam, we had some wildcatters disappear owing more than a quarter mil to several businesses and I got some nice deals picking through their corpses at auction but the wildcatters themselves? They just burnt the company and the next town over set up anew with the new name, hell of a scam they got going, practically free money and no risks.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton