Department of Public Health Sciences

Fecal pathogen pollution: sources and patterns in water and sediment samples from the upper Cook Inlet, Alaska ecosystem

Norman SA, Hobbs RC, Wuertz S, Melli A, Beckett LA, Chouicha N, Kundu A, Miller WA

Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. 2013. 1(15):1041-1051.

Fecal pathogens are transported from a variety of sources in multi-use ecosystems such as upper Cook Inlet (CI), Alaska, which includes the state's urban center and is highly utilized by humans and animals. This study used a novel water quality testing approach to evaluate the presence and host sources of potential fecal pathogens in surface waters and sediments from aquatic ecosystems in upper CI. Matched water and sediment samples, along with effluent from a municipal wastewater treatment facility, were screened for Salmonella spp., Vibrio spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Giardia spp., and noroviruses. Additionally, Bacteroidales spp. for microbial source tracking, and the fecal indicator bacteria Enterococcus spp. as well as fecal coliforms were evaluated. Overall, Giardia and Vibrio were the most frequently detected potential pathogens, followed by Cryptosporidium and norovirus, while Salmonella was not detected. Sample month, matrix type, and recent precipitation were found to be significant environmental factors for protozoa or host-associated Bacteroidales marker detection, whereas location and water temperature were not. The relative contribution of host-associated markers to total fecal marker concentration was estimated using a Monte Carlo method, with the greatest relative contribution to the Bacteroidales marker concentration coming from human sources, while the remainder of the universal fecal host source signal was uncharacterized by available host-associated assays, consistent with wildlife fecal sources. These findings show how fecal indicator and pathogen monitoring, along with identifying contributing host sources, can provide evidence of coastal pathogen pollution and guidance as to whether to target human and/or animal sources for management. PMID: 23552731



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