Microbial contamination in groundwater supply in a cold climate and coarse soil: case study of norovirus outbreak at Lake Mývatn, Iceland

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This paper explores the fate and transport of microbial contamination in a cold climate and coarse aquifers. A confirmed norovirus outbreak in a small rural water supply in the late summer of 2004, which is estimated to have infected over 100 people, is used as a case study. A septic system, 80 m upstream of the water intake, is considered to have contaminated drinking water. Water samples tested were negative for coliform and strongly positive for norovirus. Modelling predicts that a 4.8-log10 removal was possible in the 8 m thick vadose zone, while only a 0.7-log10 and 2.7-log10 removal in the aquifer for viruses and Escherichia coli, respectively. The model results support that the 80 m setback distance was inadequate and roughly 900 m aquifer transport distance was needed to achieve 9-log10 viral removal. Sensitivity analysis showed that the most influential parameters on model transport removal rate are grain size diameter and groundwater velocity, temperature and acidity. The results demonstrate a need for systematic evaluation of septic systems in rural areas in lesser studied coarse strata at low temperatures, thereby strengthening data used for regulatory requirements for more confident determination on safe setback distances.

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