Over 1.7 million Virginians rely on private water sources to provide household water. The heaviest reliance on these systems occurs in rural areas, which are often underserved with respect to available financial resources and access to environmental health education. This study aimed to identify potential associations between concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) (coliforms, Escherichia coli) in over 800 samples collected at the point-of-use from homes with private water supply systems and homeowner-provided demographic data (household income and education). Of the 828 samples tested, 349 (42%) of samples tested positive for total coliform and 55 (6.6%) tested positive for E. coli. Source tracking efforts targeting optical brightener concentrations via fluorometry and the presence of a human-specific Bacteroides marker via quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) suggest possible contamination from human septage in over 20 samples. Statistical methods implied that household income has an association with the proportion of samples positive for total coliform, though the relationship between education level and FIB is less clear. Further exploration of links between demographic data and private water quality will be helpful in building effective strategies to improve rural drinking water quality.
Associations between fecal indicator bacteria prevalence and demographic data in private water supplies in Virginia
Tamara Smith, Leigh-Anne H. Krometis, Charles Hagedorn, Annie H. Lawrence, Brian Benham, Erin Ling, Peter Ziegler, Susan West Marmagas; Associations between fecal indicator bacteria prevalence and demographic data in private water supplies in Virginia. J Water Health 1 December 2014; 12 (4): 824–834. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/wh.2014.026
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