Our project is focusing on exploring viral dynamics in the Conwy River and estuary. In order to investigate the fate and behaviour of enteric viruses, the goals of the fieldwork are:

1.  To evaluate techniques for virus recovery from environmental samples.

Representative water and sediment samples are collected at sites along the Conwy River and Estuary. These samples are being used in laboratory spiking experiments, where known concentrations of the target viruses are added. Using the spiked water and sediment samples the efficacy of   different methods for the recovery of viruses from environmental matrixes can be evaluated.

2.  To estimate the impact of wastewater treatment plants on viral loads and their movements.

3.  To explore viral movements, focussing on their potential to reach shellfish beds, recreational waters and beaches.

Regular sampling of surface water, wastewater, sediment and shellfish is being undertaken from the Conwy River and estuary and the major wastewater treatment plants along the river. Viral concentrations in the collected samples will then be determined using the molecular quantification techniques and positive samples will be the subject of viral metagenomics and infectivity studies. Regular sampling will allow us to discover the seasonal and spatial viral dynamics and results will be used for modelling viral transport and creating risk maps for improved risk assessment.

4.  Evaluation of the usefulness of in situ samplers to explore temporal viral dynamics.

At sampling sites where the target viruses are present the following samplers will be deployed:

  • Conventional automated sample collection system usually used for the nutrients and coliform bacteria investigations.
  • Passive samplers traditionally used to evaluate chemical contamination.
  • Novel passive samplers using media suitable for the enrichment of viruses.

The most useful approach then will be used to study temporal changes e.g. diurnal discharge patterns from wastewater treatment plants and during tidal cycles.