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Nowcasting Bacteria on Beaches throughout the Great Lakes –The Great Lakes Restoration initiative (GLRI) (Beach Recreation Water Quality), in cooperation with 23 local and state agencies, expanded the use of predictive modeling at 45 beaches throughout the Great Lakes. (Report; Press Release) Local agencies measure fecal-indicator bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli.) along with easily obtained environmental variables used as surrogates to estimate concentrations of fecal-indicator bacteria through a predictive modeling approach. Each beach model is based on a combination of explanatory variables, most commonly, turbidity, day-of-year, change in lake level over 24 hours, rainfall, wave height, and wind direction and speed.
Nowcast websites provide near real-time information on water-quality conditions at recreational swimming areas. The USGS has cooperated with local agencies on the Ohio Nowcast project since 2006. A pilot is under development in New York. The USGS will continue to collaborate with local agencies to expand Nowcasting to more beaches around the Great Lakes. Nowcast websites estimate the probability of exceeding the EPA bathing-water standard of 235 colony forming units per 100 milliliters (CFU/100 mL) based on the value of explanatory variables, which are entered into the Nowcast website by 9 AM each-and-every morning during the summer-swimming season. Using the result of the predictive models and the probability of exceeding the bathing-water standard, beach managers can make informed decisions on whether or not to close a beach.
Tracking Wastewater Contaminants in Red Creek, New York –The USGS New York Water Science Center has begun a pilot program to locate sources of leaking sewage from imperfect infrastructure and misconnection within the sewer system at three locations Milwaukee Estuary, Clinton River and the Rochester Embayment. As wastewater collection infrastructure (sanitary sewers) ages in the Great Lakes region, leakage of wastewater into nearby streams poses a contamination threat from pathogens and toxic contaminants. Locating sources of these leakages is a constant challenge for local wastewater utilities, and in collaboration with Monroe County, USGS will systematically track sources in a small urban basin within the Genesee River basin called Red Creek basin. New optical sensor technology for tracing sanitary sewage leakage to the source is being developed – including for optical properties, dissolved organic matter, eight human viruses, nine bovine viruses, three protozoa, and three pathogens related to fecal contamination, among other constituents. The findings will help local wastewater utilities to plan and implement restoration, and monitor effectiveness of solutions starting at these small tributaries within these larger dynamic systems.
Sources of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri streams –A USGS study, done in cooperation with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, identified key sources of E. coli, one of several fecal indicator bacteria. Sources include nonpoint source runoff, occasional discharge from combined and sanitary sewers, and treated wastewater effluent. Three Missouri River sites, five Mississippi River sites, and six small basin tributary stream sites were sampled during base flow and storm events for the presence of E. coli and their sources.