Study: Viruses, Bacteria May Be Found In Minnesota’s Public Water

One year into a two-year study requested by state lawmakers, scientists with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) report finding evidence of genetic material, like DNA, from viruses and bacteria in water from some of the state’s public water supply wells.
Finding such evidence of microbes in a drinking water system does not necessarily mean that those consuming water from these systems would become ill, but it does indicate the system may be vulnerable to contamination, according to a news release.
Health officials will now work with systems to determine how to reduce potential contamination.
The project has two components: a monitoring study divided into two phases and a community illness study.
In the first phase of the monitoring study, MDH looked at how often microbes were detected in groundwater by sampling source water from the wells of 82 systems.
The second phase of the monitoring study, scheduled to be completed by this summer, includes wells with different characteristics than the wells in the first phase.
However, 37 percent of systems had evidence of human viruses and 89 percent of systems had evidence of microbes (including some that don’t cause human illness) detected at least once during the study period, according to health officials.
In the next several months, MDH and project partners will complete an analysis of all study results including the community illness study.
After completion of the study, MDH will work with systems to determine what recommendations might be warranted to ensure public health.
“Understanding how they get into aquifers and wells may help us find a cost-effective way to predict problems and take preventive action.” MDH recommends that both public and private water systems continue to maintain their wells and conduct routine testing of their water supply, and to follow recommended procedures for operating and maintaining septic systems or other contaminant sources.

Learn More