A Microbiological Water Quality Evaluation of Ganges River Deltaic Aquifers
Monday, 15 December 2014
Substantial natural contamination from trace elements (like arsenic) and pathogens make Ganges Deltaic aquifers an area of utmost concern. Following millions of cases of chronic arsenic poisoning from the groundwaters of the region, numerous residents are still knowingly ingesting water from shallow to intermediate accessible depth drinking water wells. Added to the calamity of arsenic is the prevalence of pathogenic bacteria in these waters. The increasing frequency of gastroenteritis signifies the need to quantify the magnitude and extensiveness of health degrading agents--bacterial pathogens (i.e. Salmonella) and non-pathogens (i.e. Enterobacteriaceae) --within the water supply in accessible Gangetic aquifers. To assess the dissolved microbiological quality in the region, present study sampling locations are along defined piezometer nests in an area in SE Asia (Bangladesh). Every nest contains samples from wells at varying depths covering shallow to deep aquifers. To date, 17 of the 76 water samples were analyzed for Salmonella, generic Escherichia coli (E. coli) and coliforms. Briefly, samples were plated in duplicate onto E. coli/Coliform petrifilm and incubated at 370C for 48 hours. Next, each sample was enriched in buffered peptone water and incubated at 370C for 18 hours. Bacterial DNA was extracted and amplified using a qPCR machine. Amplification plots were analyzed to determine presence/absence of microorganisms. All water samples (n=~76) are analyzed for Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria spp. and Shigella. Pathogen populations of PCR-positive water samples are enumerated using the agar direct plate method. Non-pathogenic bacterial indicator organisms (i.e. Enterobacteriaceae) will also be enumerated. Over the course of the experiment, we hypothesize that shallower wells will 1)have a higher pathogen prevalence and 2)harbor pathogens and nonpathogens at higher concentrations. While the 17 samples analyzed to date were negative for Salmonella, and E. coli, we anticipate subsequent sample analyses may reveal, E. coli or pathogenic (i.e. Salmonella) contamination due to livestock and anthropogenic wastes in the area. With farmers using shallow depth aquifers to irrigate crops, there is a very real threat of foodborne illness and the risk to public health is great.