Determining sources of fecal bacteria in waterways

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31 Scopus citations


The microbiological contamination of waterways by pathogenic microbes has been, and is still, a persistent public safety concern in the United States and in most countries of the world. As most enteric pathogens are transmitted through the fecal-oral route, fecal pollution is generally regarded as the major contributor of pathogens to waterways. Fecal pollution of waterways can originate from wastewater treatment facilities, septic tanks, domestic- and wild-animal feces, and pets. Because enteric pathogens are derived from human or animal sources, techniques capable of identifying and apportioning fecal sources have been intensively investigated for use in remediation efforts and to satisfy regulatory concerns. Pollution of human origin is of the most concern, since human feces is more likely to contain human-specific enteric pathogens. Fecal indicator bacteria have been used successfully as the primary tool for microbiologically based risk assessment. However measurement of fecal indicator bacteria does not define what pathogens are present, or define the sources of these bacteria. Microbial source tracking (MST) methods that have the ability to differentiate among sources of fecal pollution are currently under development. These methods will ultimately be useful for risk assessment purposes and to aid regulatory agencies in developing strategies to remediate microbiologically impaired waterways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-106
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Bacteria
  • Enterococci
  • Escherichia coli
  • Fecal indicator
  • Microbial source-tracking
  • Water


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