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When consumed in contaminated water, the microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium can cause symptoms of stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever. Now, researchers reporting in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology have detected evidence of the parasite in about 40 percent of surveyed wells in public water systems in Minnesota—even wells not influenced by surface water. The team emphasizes that they don't know whether the parasite levels are high enough to actually cause health concerns.
Most Cryptosporidium outbreaks associated with drinking water sources have been traced to surface waters such as lakes and rivers that become contaminated by sewage discharge or livestock runoff. In contrast, water from aquifers deep within the ground was not thought to be as vulnerable because the overlying soil and sediments can filter out Cryptosporidium oocysts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that public water systems with a surface water source monitor and treat for Cryptosporidium contamination, whereas groundwater is exempt from these regulations unless known to be infiltrated by surface waters. Mark Borchardt and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Minnesota Department of Health wondered if they could detect...
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