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Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Jun;115(6):856-64. Epub 2007 Feb 6.

Massive microbiological groundwater contamination associated with a waterborne outbreak in Lake Erie, South Bass Island, Ohio.

Author information

1
Department of Crop and Soil Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1222, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

A groundwater-associated outbreak affected approximately 1,450 residents and visitors of South Bass Island, Ohio, between July and September 2004.

OBJECTIVES:

To examine the microbiological quality of groundwater wells located on South Bass Island, we sampled 16 wells that provide potable water to public water systems 15-21 September 2004.

METHODS:

We tested groundwater wells for fecal indicators, enteric viruses and bacteria, and protozoa (Cryptosporidium and Giardia). The hydrodynamics of Lake Erie were examined to explore the possible surface water-groundwater interactions.

RESULTS:

All wells were positive for both total coliform and Escherichia coli. Seven wells tested positive for enterococci and Arcobacter (an emerging bacterial pathogen), and F(+)-specific coliphage was present in four wells. Three wells were positive for all three bacterial indicators, coliphages, and Arcobacter; adenovirus DNA was recovered from two of these wells. We found a cluster of the most contaminated wells at the southeast side of the island.

CONCLUSIONS:

Massive groundwater contamination on the island was likely caused by transport of microbiological contaminants from wastewater treatment facilities and septic tanks to the lake and the subsurface, after extreme precipitation events in May-July 2004. This likely raised the water table, saturated the subsurface, and along with very strong Lake Erie currents on 24 July, forced a surge in water levels and rapid surface water-groundwater interchange throughout the island. Landsat images showed massive influx of organic material and turbidity surrounding the island before the peak of the outbreak. These combinations of factors and information can be used to examine vulnerabilities in other coastal systems. Both wastewater and drinking water issues are now being addressed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Health.

PMID:
17589591
PMCID:
PMC1892145
DOI:
10.1289/ehp.9430
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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