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Science of The Total Environment
Vol. 562, 2016, Pages: 987–995

Microbial pathogens in source and treated waters from drinking water treatment plants in the United States and implications for human health

Dawn N. King, Maura J. Donohue, Stephen J. Vesper, Eric N. Villegas, Michael W. Ware, Megan E. Vogel, Edward F. Furlong, Dana W. Kolpin, Susan T. Glassmeyer, Stacy Pfaller

Office of Research and Development, National Exposure Research Laboratory, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 26 West Martin Luther King Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45268, United States.

Abstract

An occurrence survey was conducted on selected pathogens in source and treated drinking water collected from 25 drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) in the United States. Water samples were analyzed for the protozoa Giardia and Cryptosporidium(EPA Method 1623); the fungi Aspergillus fumigatusAspergillus niger and Aspergillus terreus (quantitative PCR [qPCR]); and the bacteria Legionella pneumophila (qPCR), Mycobacterium aviumM. avium subspecies paratuberculosis, and Mycobacterium intracellulare (qPCR and culture). Cryptosporidium and Giardia were detected in 25% and in 46% of the source water samples, respectively (treated waters were not tested).Aspergillus fumigatus was the most commonly detected fungus in source waters (48%) but none of the three fungi were detected in treated water. Legionella pneumophila was detected in 25% of the source water samples but in only 4% of treated water samples. M. avium and M. intracellulare were both detected in 25% of source water, while all three mycobacteria were detected in 36% of treated water samples. Five species of mycobacteria, Mycobacterium mucogenicumMycobacterium phocaicum,Mycobacterium triplexMycobacterium fortuitum, and Mycobacterium lentiflavum were cultured from treated water samples. Although these DWTPs represent a fraction of those in the U.S., the results suggest that many of these pathogens are widespread in source waters but that treatment is generally effective in reducing them to below detection limits. The one exception is the mycobacteria, which were commonly detected in treated water, even when not detected in source waters.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Pathogens; Drinking water; Treatment; Source water; Occurrence.

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