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Viruses From Sewage Contaminate Deep Well Water

timothy posted about a year ago | from the that-is-not-good dept.

Earth 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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93 comments

One word (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526159)

Shitty

Re:One word (3, Funny)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year ago | (#43527243)

Just start fracking, so all these sewage contamination problems will be minimized. At least in a relative way...

Re:One word (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43529141)

So where is all the science that shows that fracking normally hurts the drinking water supply.
Yes put regulations on it. If they do make a mistake they should make sure they pay for alternate water supply to the homes, however if fracking is as safe as it says it is, they shouldn't have a problem covering these cases of accidents.

Re:One word (4, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#43529407)

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.

Re:One word (2)

mcrbids (148650) | about a year ago | (#43530177)

Congratulations! You've just laid out exactly why I personally object to corporations in general! There are a million ways that corporations can be used to shield liability and hide money - it could easily be argued that's the reason for their existence in the first place.

Re:One word (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#43532255)

Governments can be used in similar manners..

1. Avoiding responsibility? The US federal government vs budget. They don't fix the problem because they don't have to. No one is holding a gun to their head or threatening them with jailtime. In contrast, what happens if the average citizen quits paying his bills? How about the law? the fed flubs the law all the time, whenever it's inconvenient..and they all pat each other on the ass, calling it 'reaching across the aisle'... more like one giant reach around.

2. hiding money? "sorry, we needed this money for a REDACTED, REDACTED, and REDACTED for the REDACTED program. Your roads wo'nt be repaired, your schools will be underfunded, because we need more money!. Oh, sorry, gotta run to vote 'yes' on the internet sales tax bill!"

Governments are used by the wealthy to keep the common folk at bay. It could easily be argued that's the reason for their existence in the first place.

Re:One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43538571)

Shell, BP and Exxon all published some very in depth studies showing that fracking is perfectly safe. I think bought the surplus test-labs from Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds.

Re:One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527671)

Compost the waste!

Oops. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43526193)

It's a biosphere, everything is connected.

Pesky things.

Re:Oops. (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43526307)

OK, now that I actually read the TFA I'm not terribly surprised - other than the fact that this study apparently hasn't been done before.

Researchers tracked human pathogenic viruses in a city sewage system. The concentration of the little critters varies as waves of infection go back and forth amongst the humans and other creatures whose waste is collected in the system.

The then track the appearance of viruses in a deep well under the sewage lines and find that about six weeks later, the same virus shows up in the presumably sterile well water with roughly the same kinetics (peak and ebb). So they are able to posit (but not prove) that the viruses came from the sewage system (as opposed to skinnying down the pipe itself or just magically appearing).

So, you have unmapped connections through the supposedly sealed off clay cap that lies between the sewage systems and the aquifer. Doesn't surprise me. One small earthquake 100000 years ago could have done it.

But it is a cautionary tale that deserves some additional testing to see how widespread the issue is.

Re:Oops. (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43526357)

Unless you properly seal up your sewerage systems and treat the sewerage, then they aren't connected. Astonishing amounts of clean water leaks out of public supply pipes around the world before it ever reaches a tap, and sometimes things are getting in too, like that case of cryptosporidium that hit a European city a few years back.

Re:Oops. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43527427)

Unfortunately, keeping substantial lengths of pipe(especially buried pipe in places where you have to fuck up everybody's commute for a week just to dig down and have a look) non-leaky is a hard problem.

If the substance being piped is dangerous enough, people will suck it up and try(I used to live a few blocks from an elementary school. The guys at the local incompetent natural gas supplier always got a whole lot more... responsive... when I started giving the location as "Maybe 50 meters or so from the elementary school, can't miss it!" rather than just giving the street address); but unless you are pandering for the Fremen vote or something, the economics of keeping some water from leaking out of pipes, rather than just getting 50+ years out of them, aren't quite as exciting...

Re:Oops. (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about a year ago | (#43526433)

You mean I can't literally shit where I eat as a society, metaphorically?

Simple solution (5, Funny)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#43526221)

Just drink bottled water! Oh wait, doesn't that come from the same place? Beer it is then.

Re:Simple solution (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43526317)

Where do you think the water for beer comes from? :-P

Re:Simple solution (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year ago | (#43526391)

Where do you think the water for beer comes from? :-P

From... a process that involves boiling, that will almost certainly kill off the viruses?

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526447)

Exactly. That's why beer was invented in the first place.

Re:Simple solution (3)

firex726 (1188453) | about a year ago | (#43526919)

Not quite, it wasn't "invented" to clean water from pathogens.

The documented "How Beer Saved the World" suggests that like many things its invention was an accident, and the not making you sick properties were not realized till much later.

All they knew was that when you boil/brew water into beer it would not make you sick later.

Re:Simple solution (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#43527089)

They thought it was a health tonic. If you didn't drink it, you had all sorts of digestive tract issues. Water, especially in cities, was considered almost poisonous. Also, the beer of the time was very weak. It was watered down because it was basically the only way to quench your thirst without getting sick. There are many old songs that revolve around the boss watering down the workers beer so they'd get more work done, but if the boss watered it down too much his workers would get sick and not come to work. He didn't want them pooping their brains out but he didn't want them drunk either.

Re:Simple solution (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about a year ago | (#43527155)

Yes but that came later, I'm talking about the stuff from 7000+ years ago in Iran; not 12th century England.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528111)

Exactly. That's why beer was invented in the first place.

No, beer was invented to keep the Irish from conquering the world.

Re:Simple solution (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43526417)

Doesn't much matter. That's what the alcohol is for. Biological warfare!

Re:Simple solution (5, Informative)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about a year ago | (#43526501)

Hops are a pretty effective anti-pathogen. In most beers the alcohol content isn't significant in that regard.

Re:Simple solution (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43526521)

The boiling is the real anti-pathogen.

I know I make beer that sometimes has IBUs below 15.

Re:Simple solution (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43527011)

The alcohol tastes better than the boiling.,, Also, IIRC pasteurization of beer was relatively recent while the aseptic qualities of alcohol tinctured liquids was known for several thousand years. Could be recalling it incorrectly. Happens every 20 minutes or so.

Re:Simple solution (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43527063)

Pasteurization is not what I am speaking of.

Making beer requires boiling the wort. That is what makes the sugar rich liquid the yeast can live in. Alcohol in beer is generally too low to be preservative or truly antiseptic.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527325)

Brewing itself is also a big part. You introduce and encourage the growth of a beneficial species that out-competes and crowds out others that might be harmful (or produce fermentation products that might be unpleasant or harmful).

This in itself is a preservative technique, even though the end products of fermentation keep long after the beneficial yeast have perished.

Beer is a product that will keep longer than either water or grain will separately. I assume this is because beer is not a good food source for harmful (or otherwise) pathogens.

Re:Simple solution (1)

riT-k0MA (1653217) | about a year ago | (#43528441)

Beer only keeps about eight to twelve months [slashdot.org] . Properly stored [whole] grain can keep for decades, possibly even centuries under the right conditions.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528563)

Tell that to my dad's friend, who just broke open a batch of molasses primed beers that were 5-6 years old. They had 6" of head for 3" of liquid and while slightly odd tasting were perfectly fine.

Now mind you the exact recipe can change that from a few months to probably a few decades, depending.

Re:Simple solution (1)

riT-k0MA (1653217) | about a year ago | (#43535023)

The Shelf-life of beer [google.com] depends on the alcohol content. Stronger beer lasts longer. Homebrew tends to have a higher alcohol content than commercial beers, especially if you pull the double fermentation trick (add more sugar after 6 weeks and wait another 6 weeks).

Re:Simple solution (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526561)

Where do you think the water for beer comes from? :-P

Heaven.

Re:Simple solution (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about a year ago | (#43526743)

"I don't drink water. Fish fuck in it." - W.C. Fields

The magic of chlorine (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43526255)

From TFA:

However, “because Madison chlorinates its water, no one has become sick,” Bradbury adds.

Re:The magic of chlorine (2)

chill (34294) | about a year ago | (#43526379)

General Jack D. Ripper would argue with you.

I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

Re:The magic of chlorine (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43526449)

I love the reference, but man, that was fluoride!

Re:The magic of chlorine (2)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#43526639)

"Have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol?"

Re:The magic of chlorine (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43527007)

Well, I, uh... I... I... first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love...Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I... I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.... I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake... But I... I do deny them my essence.

Re:The magic of chlorine (1)

Tool Man (9826) | about a year ago | (#43526647)

If you have a well of your own, you can (and should) "shock" it from time to time. Best done before you are going to be away for a few days, to let the bleach water hang out in your household water pipes too.

Deep well water tastes better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526257)

It gives the water a wonderful nutty taste.

Re:Deep well water tastes better (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#43526489)

That would be the cyanide [epa.gov]

This is what happens ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43526271)

This is what happens when you say "in the absence of evidence it's harmful, we'll assume it's safe".

It seems entirely reasonable that it going to move around underground. Water tends to do that.

Sadly, this is not much different from all of the fracking and the like going on -- everybody says "well, it must be safe since there's no evidence to the contrary", and then people find themselves with flammable tap water. Then the companies try hard to deny that what they did had any impact, and that it must have been contaminated before (even when things were tested and came up clean).

Water will move around in cracks, and penetrate wherever it can. Human sewage is going to be full of pathogens, and those aren't going to stay put because we want them to.

Re:This is what happens ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526915)

If I recall the claims about fracking causing flammable water were debunked. Some geographical areas naturally have some methane gas in their water and it's been that way for decades.

As a Colorado resident I can tell you that the ground water here is considered sacrosanct. Road crews don't even use salt on the roads because of fear that it will contaminate the aquifers. A good chunk of our population would have NO water if the aquifers ever became contaminated, which would lead to a mass exodus. In short, people just don't fuck around with ground water like popular opinion seems to think. At least not around here, they don't.

Most aquifers also aren't free-flowing underground lakes, either. It's closer to being like saturated wet sand. Sure the water moves, but not freely like many people seem to think. Contamination at one point could take decades or even centuries to spread significantly throughout the aquifer, and with every advancement the contamination makes it becomes more diluted.

Re:This is what happens ... (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43527069)

If I recall the claims about fracking causing flammable water were debunked.

Only by the people doing the fracking who go to great lengths to deny it. Everyone else is still studying it, or has already found evidence fracking leads to contamination.

Contamination at one point could take decades or even centuries to spread significantly throughout the aquifer

It could, but apparently, it doesn't.

TFA is pointing out that it was supposed to be hundreds of years, when it's really very fast (like weeks or months).

Re:This is what happens ... (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#43530205)

My neighbors down the road, when I lived in another state 20 years ago, had gas in their water. I don't have any relationship with any natural gas drillers, and there was no drilling in the area. So there's one.

Re:This is what happens ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43538029)

So if any well, at any time in history, was contaminated without drilling, we conclude that there is no basis to say that drilling can lead to contaminated wells.

Right.

So using this horribly flawed logic, if anybody died of cancer before the use of tobacco, we can conclude that tobacco doesn't cause cancer.

You keep telling yourself that.

Re:This is what happens ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43529153)

Coloradoan here. Fracking is already happening in our state, I don't know where you are and what you've seen.

There was a fracking operation around the Larkspur area for a few months a few months ago. The Colorado Springs area is being pushed to allow fracking operations closer to or within city limits.

Road crews also don't use salt because it cracks the concrete roads we like to have out here. They do use salt in places, however.

Don't bury your head in the sand just because fracking "isn't" happening across the state. It is happening in small pockets, even if those pockets aren't around you. Furthermore, dilution may or may not be the solution to pollution. It depends on the acceptable level of individual contaminants, and in some cases you may want completely uncontaminated (of one of many possible contaminants) supplies.

And one last thing: since contamination takes a long time in terms of human lifespans, it is both difficult to prove contamination from fracking, and even if you could, it is next to impossible to prosecute the companies that did the contamination. Companies are bought, sold, go bankrupt, traded around, flooded with debt, have their value extricated, etc. so tracking where all the money goes is an almost impossible process, doubly so if the money goes overseas. So don't listen to anybody who says the companies will be on the hook for 20+ years - don't kid yourself, that's just not going to happen.

Re:This is what happens ... (2, Insightful)

Tator Tot (1324235) | about a year ago | (#43527149)

You really need to educate yourself with fracking before you start with the talking points.

First, the people who claimed that their "flammable tap water" started happening ONLY when they began fracking have not necessarily been honest. In the past, these same people reported that their water was flammable, many years prior to fracking ever occuring in Pennsylvania.

Take a look at some news sources that attempt to remove the bias, such as Science News [sciencenews.org]

Newly fracked gas wells could also be intersecting with old, abandoned gas or oil wells, allowing methane from those sites to migrate. "We've punched holes in the ground in Pennsylvania for 150 years," Jackson says. Many old wells have not been shut down properly, he says. "You find ones that people plugged with a tree stump." In some places in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and elsewhere (especially those with existing coal beds), methane turned up in well water long before hydraulic fracturing became widespread.

Any place sitting on top of the Marcellus Shale has a chance for hydrocarbons to rise through layers of sediment related to the old wells that were drilled there. Remember that Pennsylvania was the "oil center of the world" in the late 1800's.

Could fracking play a part in methane increases due to the multitude of old wells that were drilled in Pennsylvania a long time ago? Possibly. Could fracking play a part in methane increases in homes in "new plays" located in North Dakota? Highly unlikely.

Second, when you frac 15k feet below the surface, you might fracture rock up to a half mile up or down (and I'm being generous). So if you're fracking horizontally, you'll induce fractures that can travel anywhere from 12.5k to 17.5k feet below the earth. You know where the LOWEST aquafer's are located? (and again, I'm being generous) Around 1000 ft below the surface.

Do you think frac operations use too much water? That's a legitimate concern.
Do you think frac operations could do better and treating and disposing waste water? That's a legitimate concern.
Do you think frac operations pump toxic chemicals below the ground? Then you should really check your fact sources.
Do you think frac operations have "secret chemicals" that they put in the water, and they won't tell us what they are? Then you should really check your fact sources. Go to any major service company's website (Halliburton, Schlumberger, etc) and search for "what's in frac water?"
Do you think frac operations cause natural gas to seep into aquifers? It's a concern, but you really need to check your fact sources, and take into account several factors before drawing conclusions.

Re:This is what happens ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43529711)

do you think people are dumb enough to trust *HALIBURTON* in the first place? most people know better.

Wish I had anti-moderation points now... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527173)

Bollocks! Your sampling size is only one sample, rendering this whole hysterical speculation about nothing a mere anecdote at best. Your biased arguments speaks against lack of volumes of peer-reviewed journals where even the best of them lack the full scope of double blind-test, at least in the required amount of years in order to be be taken seriously at all.

You could just as well be speaking about a gigantic spaghettimonster of biblical proportions, it makes just as much sense.
All in all, you're rude and inconsiderate to speak anything at all, except for that which we believe to be good and true.

With all honesty and sincerity of all of humanity,
Your friendly pseudoskeptic.

Captcha: watching

Why septic is better (1)

packrat0x (798359) | about a year ago | (#43526341)

Sewer systems are complicated. They have to deal with non-fluid debris besides the effluent. Drinking water is much easier to pipe. The sewer pipes only transfer 70%-90% of the effluent to the treatment plant. What leaks out is full of human pathogens. Possibly animal and plant pathogens depending on what gets sent "down the drain". If we have the available soil at a location, we should use a septic system. The septic tank traps debris and kills pathogens. The septic field returns nutrients to the soil. We should install city sewer only where we cannot use septic systems. Alternatively, perhaps someone can invent a modified septic tank to be installed "upstream" of the city sewer connection.

Re:Why septic is better (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526849)

Septic systems only work when density is low since a drain field covers 1/2 to a full acre of land. Then the theory is, hopefully the waste water will move slow enough through the system that bacteria finish eating up all the poo before it runs back into the aquifer. My town is all 1 acre lots with wells and septic, and we're having to go deeper and deeper to get clean water.

Your idea of a septic tank upstream of the city sewer connection is a common one. Sometimes public utilities will come into an old neighborhood like mine and hook up to the septic tank output so they don't have to deal with everybody's paper towels and used tampons. That's great for the homeowner because a drain field is a $10k-$50k problem waiting to happen.

My new neighbors have an interesting system. It's a aerobic bacteria system with all kinds of pumps and filters. It outputs into a long 1/2" perforated tube that snakes all around the yard, buried only a few inches deep. It depends on the grass and trees to use up all the water. It was extremely expensive and was required because the lots wouldn't support a conventional septic system.

Re:Why septic is better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527555)

Septic systems only work when density is low since a drain field covers 1/2 to a full acre of land.

I was pretty sure the above statement was a bunch of crap since I actually *saw* the drainfield put in on a house I had built, but I did need to look it up:

http://inspectapedia.com/septic/fieldsize.htm#H1

Drainfield sizes range from 4500 ft^2 to 9000 ft^2 for normal-sized homes. Since one acre is ~43,000 ft^2, that is between 1/10th and 1/4 of an acre.

Re:Why septic is better (0)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#43528711)

Yes, except you limited the houses to "normal-sized homes". Most Americans are overwieght, eat super-sized food, drive over-sized cars, and live in huge homes. Most homes in rural areas with septic drain fields are single-wide mobile homes.

Re:Why septic is better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528913)

Septic system size depends solely on the number of occupants and the soil type.

And you're an arrogant ignorant asshole.

Re:Why septic is better (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#43530257)

I hope you're being sarcastic. I have never lived in a mobile home, yet three homes I've lived in have had a septic system. The square footage varied from about 1,500 to near 3,000. I'll just ignore your idiotic, meaningless "fat American" insults.

Semantics? (3, Informative)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | about a year ago | (#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? (3, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43526493)

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:Semantics? (2)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | about a year ago | (#43526635)

Along those lines. Like the joke about a physicist solving an engineering problem. "This will work... In a zero gravity vacuum."

Actually had a real world example of this.

My then fiance was telling us around the dinner table about her teacher and his wife who were both mathematicians. They did ridiculous stuff in their free time like figuring out the most efficient way to mow their lawn. They came up with the idea it was more efficient to mow in circles instead of box/rows. When I laughed, she said they showed the equations that proved it. I asked, "Did they take into account the fact that a riding mower generally has a wide turning radius and can't mow a perfectly filled circle, or that a push mower generally has to be lifted to turn since they have fixed wheels?" "...no." "That's why you don't ask a mathematician how to mow a lawn..."

Re:Semantics? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43526827)

And the source of the whole raft of jokes which come down to "A Mathematician, a Physicist, and an Engineer".

In the high school gym, all the girls in the class were lined up against one wall, and all the boys against the opposite wall. Then, every ten seconds, they walked toward each other until they were half the previous distance apart. A mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer were asked, "When will the girls and boys meet?"
The mathematician said: "Never."
The physicist said: "In an infinite amount of time."
The engineer said: "Well... in about two minutes, they'll be close enough for all practical purposes."

:-P

Re:Semantics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528539)

you can turn with a push mower, grass is slippery enough. doing it with a motor mower in a circle-type deal is pretty common too, of course not in a perfect one.

anyhow it's likely the sewers were already there when they started doing the models, and common sense says if you have a large water source you have to test the water for viruses anyways - simply because there's OTHER ways for the viruses to get into the water too than originally being in the water down there.

(for example, some geniuses in Finland managed to pipe waste water straight into the inlet for a citys water system, 20k of population was not happy about that!)

Re:Semantics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526583)

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?

I bet that the "model" was mostly guesstimates that didn't take the pipes into consideration at all.

Not everyone's on sewers (2)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#43526543)

Leaving wild animals and their poops aside, there's plenty of human dwellings with a well at one end of their property and a septic tank& leaching field at the other. Anything that passes through the X feet of filtering soil is going to find its way into the groundwater. It would seem that, other than the "ick" factor, there's really nothing new here.

Re:Not everyone's on sewers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526781)

And yet the government will send inspectors out to nail you for having a "substandard onsite waste disposal system" that isn't actually leaching anything. In the meantime, the government owned sewer pipes are overflowing into San Francisco Bay on a routine basis. What's wrong with this picture?

Oh, and just *try* to legally install a composting toilet system which doesn't leach anything under normal operation. America. The only country where we actually shit into the water.

Re:Not everyone's on sewers (0)

deadweight (681827) | about a year ago | (#43527107)

Having been around some of this planet a few times, I have *no clue* why you think the USA is some bad example of bad sewer pipes. There are PLENTY of places that are worse!

Re:Not everyone's on sewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526953)

Not the same. For a septic system, liquid goes to the field AFTER processing in the septic tanks. The article says leaking RAW UNTREATED SEWAGE from the lines leaks into the ground.

Re:Not everyone's on sewers (2)

vux984 (928602) | about a year ago | (#43528117)

there's plenty of human dwellings with a well at one end of their property and a septic tank& leaching field at the other.

The septic tank is the key difference. It doesn't go from the toilet to the drainage field directly. The tank is effectively a mini-sewage treatment plant.

The analogy would only be apt if the pipe from the house to the septic tank was assumed to be leaking.

TFA suggests the problem is leakage from pipes carrying waste to the sewage treatment plants.

Chart of the virii which were tested (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#43526805)

Interesting to see what they actually found as TFA doesn't mention it. Assuming ECHO is Enteric Cytopathic Human Orphan, Adeno is Adenovirus and Cox is Coxsackie virus which can cause swelling of the tissue around the heart. Yeessh...

http://pubs.acs.org/appl/literatum/publisher/achs/journals/content/esthag/0/esthag.ahead-of-print/es400509b/aop/images/large/es-2013-00509b_0006.jpeg [acs.org]

Re:Chart of the virii which were tested (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528891)

Cocksuer: The correct spelling is viri. Latin roots, blah, blah.

Re:Chart of the virii which were tested (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43529243)

I didn't RTFA, but did they do a control for a making sure a smaller sewage pipe isn't going into a main water pipe? Some of those timelines overlap too closely to leak down, i feel, unless there were a pretty direct leak path to the well.

i recall an article about this happening in some other town a number of years back.

And they say... (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43526829)

...that fracking chemicals won't seep into well water either.

Re:And they say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527133)

Um... They do say that, but it seems likely that when fracking is done properly, it's pretty safe. Of course, if you frack in the water table, or are not careful to seal your well as it goes though the water table, then sure, it's going to be a problem.

Drinking water is usually within 300 feet or so of the surface, or it's just not worth trying to pump. Nobody drills much further for water, mainly because you simply don't have to. Natural Gas wells where Fracking is done usually don't start above a few thousand feet and can be more than nine thousand feet. Somehow I don't think the risk is going to be that high if you are being reasonably careful about how you do this. There will be at least a thousand feet of material, some of it impervious rock between your gas well and the water table where there is only about 200 feet (or less) of sand, rock, gravel and soil between a sewer pipe and your average water table depth.

Chances are Fracking is as safe as they say. It's not without risk, but it's certainly not anywhere as risky as opponents would want you to believe.

Re:And they say... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43527357)

Um... They do say that, but it seems likely that when fracking is done properly, it's pretty safe. Of course, if you frack in the water table, or are not careful to seal your well as it goes though the water table, then sure, it's going to be a problem.

Sure, fracking may be safe when performed properly, but with thousands of new fracking wells each year, even if they do it right 99.9% of the time, there's still lots of room for water contamination.

Re:And they say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528569)

That's what *civil* court is for if they damage your property and mess up your well when they mess up. Further, the EPA will read them the riot act.

Besides... You do realize that if they "mess up" now and then, they will have *wasted* a large sum of cash because the effectiveness of the frack job is dependent on getting the materials into the rock where the gas is. If it gets wasted at 300 feet where it messes up the water table when they are shooting for 3,000, somebody ain't going to be happy about having a well that doesn't produce when it should have. It may happen, but not very often.

Re:And they say... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43528909)

That's what *civil* court is for if they damage your property and mess up your well when they mess up. Further, the EPA will read them the riot act.

That's great, but does you no good when you discover groundwater contamination ars after the well is drilled and the company that did it is a shell company that's already gone out of business.

Besides... You do realize that if they "mess up" now and then, they will have *wasted* a large sum of cash because the effectiveness of the frack job is dependent on getting the materials into the rock where the gas is. If it gets wasted at 300 feet where it messes up the water table when they are shooting for 3,000, somebody ain't going to be happy about having a well that doesn't produce when it should have. It may happen, but not very often.

Sure, the gulf oil spill will likely cost BP many billions of dollars when it's all accounted for. Accidents happen. It may not happen very often, but if a bad fracking job contaminates a municipal aquifer, hundreds of thousands of people may be paying for the mistake.

Re:And they say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527507)

I trust you anonymous guy on the internet that is clearly not being paid to post reassuring things about fracking on the internet.

Re:And they say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528503)

Aw, got to send that check back to Halibertion now that you got me..... Seriously? Common sense doesn't matter if the guy saying it is paid by someone with a vested interest here but if some actor who plays a scientist on TV says so you believe them? You people are nuts.

Full Disclosure.... I work for an airspace contractor and don't directly own any interest in any companies who use or perform Fracking...

Re:And they say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527541)

They do say that, but it seems likely that when fracking is done properly ... Natural Gas wells where Fracking is done usually don't start above a few thousand feet ... Somehow I don't think ... Chances are Fracking is as safe as they say

Wow, congratulations, you've put in so many weasel words and cop outs that there is nothing of value in what you've said.

Maybe, might, could be, ought to be, should be ... and then you somehow manage to follow that all up with a solid positive assertion in the form of but it's certainly not anywhere as risky as opponents would want you to believe. What evidence do you have to support a conclusion like that other than your 'feeling' that it must be so?

Sorry, but you're as full of shit as the people who do the drilling. You and your family should be made to drink contaminated well water to prove it's not dangerous. Go shill somewhere else.

Re:And they say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43528431)

Calm down there AC and pull up your horses. NOTHING we do is without risk, just breathing can be a problem. This was not trying to wiggle out of something, it was carefully setting out the facts.

I'm saying is that considering the differences in the distances involved, Fracking will be a lot safer than the leaky sewage lines we already use, if for no other reason than it's going to be at least 3x the amount of material between a frack job and the water table than between the sewage line and the water table.I agree that there *are* risks with fracking, but I do not agree that it's more risky than the current set of risks to our underground water resources.

Conspiracy theories.. Shesh... Facts don't matter, common sense is abandoned and everybody assumes the "evil corporations" are out to get us, or at least our money, in the most cruel dirty and upsetting ways possible. This is not generally true, as the evil corporations are usually staffed by people who are just like you who understand what doing the right thing means and the bulk of the folks out there actually *DO* the right thing.

Go put that tin foil hat back on... Nutcase..

This is Not news. (1)

mexsudo (2905137) | about a year ago | (#43526917)

This has been know for many many years. Simple (and old) science.

A Misleading Statement in the Article (5, Informative)

srobert (4099) | about a year ago | (#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.

http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/pathogens.cfm#What%20pathogens%20does%20EPA%20regulate%20in%20drinking%20water,%20and%20what%20are%20their%20health%20effects [epa.gov] ?

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

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

Re:A Misleading Statement in the Article (2)

Ramsus (697543) | about a year ago | (#43527075)

Interesting link! the ground water rule http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-WATER/2000/May/Day-10/w10763.htm [epa.gov] would be the specific one that applies here? It will be fun to see how quickly the EPA or other organisations mobilise based on this data. It sounds like a lot of work to remedy these problems once found.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527959)

Informative

Re:A Misleading Statement in the Article (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43528583)

yes, so if viruses get down to the well water, it just means they have to spend a bit more on disinfecting it - and not making the whole water supply useless? because that's how it would sound to me.

Re:A Misleading Statement in the Article (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43529057)

If the rule is 99.99%, then they don't need to spend any more. More viruses in, more viruses out.

I would hope they'd do a lot better than 99.99% though - these are asexually-reproducing organisms, not chemicals. It only takes one to cause a problem. (Yes, I realize that viruses don't reproduce on their own. No, it won't help you if you happen to swallow the glass of water with a single viable virus in it and it manages to attach to one of your cells.)

Re:A Misleading Statement in the Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43530237)

As is often the case with risk mitigation strategies, there's no such thing as 100% safe.
We can only reduce the probability that the tap water will cause illness within the constraints of our knowledge and how much money can be allocated. Tap water at $5 / gallon will not be an acceptable solution. Also, note that tap water is regulated by the EPA. Bottled water is regulated by the FDA. The EPA's regulations for tap water are more stringent than those applied to bottled water.

hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43526993)

Well, shit.

Sewer pipe to water pipe to well (1)

erice (13380) | about a year ago | (#43527343)

That seems the most plausible path. All it takes is a hole in the sewer pipe and a hole in the water pipe and there's your path. Once in the water pipes it doesn't sound impossible for pathogens to move backwards into the aquifer. I admit the pressure gradient should work against this but it sounds more plausible than quickly transiting a "a thick layer of clay or shale" separating the sewer pipes from the aquifer.

Too many unanswered questions (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#43527467)

I'm still trying to understand this. How did they trace viruses to the bedrock well sites? Did they have Windows installed? Did they find the address where IP from? I suspect that I may be an inadvertant source of the virus, but I don't know why or how to stop it. I even tried to wipe my drive and perform a system flush, but it just made the problem worse. Help - anybody?

Re:Too many unanswered questions (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | about a year ago | (#43529027)

I would assume that they created a GUI interface in Visual Basic... sheesh.

Sadly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43527511)

Sadly sewer system leakage is far from unusual. In some areas the lines are decades old and have degraded severely. Some areas are making efforts to locate and repair problems (robotic cameras, testing, maintenance programs), others though just don't care. I know a utility worker who was working on some rainwater drainage piping and found a city sewage line basically dumping into the rainwater line, he reported it to the city in question but their response was basically "Oh well, we'll get around to it eventually". Personally I would have been a bit more concerned about such a thing, especially when the rainwater line in question eventually dumped into the cities main drinking water reservoir.

Chlorine anyone? (1)

JRHelgeson (576325) | about a year ago | (#43529109)

Isn't this why we add chlorine to water? And if you visit a foreign country and drink the water - you get sick?
How is it news that unfiltered ground water can contain harmful pathogens?

gn44 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43529497)

shar0e. *BSD is are 7000 0sers

This seems a big suspect. (1)

edibobb (113989) | about a year ago | (#43530519)

If "scientists thought that pathogens could not reach drinking water wells sunk into deep, protected groundwater aquifers", why are all domestic wells required by law to be tested to ensure there are no pathogens in the well water?
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