Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014AL165B

Examination of bacterial levels in water and sediment for the development of refined monitoring protocols for inland recreational waters

Institute: Alabama
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $41,382 Total Non-Federal Funds: $83,344

Principal Investigators: Luxin Wang, Eric Reutebuch

Abstract: The health and well-being of Alabama’s citizens relative to recreational water usage depends on credible and timely monitoring of public swimming areas and other recreational waters to assess these areas for contamination with pathogens and other pollutants. Escherichia coli bacteria are commonly used as indicator organisms for the presence of fecal contamination and its associated pathogens in inland waters, while Enterococci are used in marine waters (USEPA, 2012). The State (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) routinely monitors swim areas along Alabama’s coast (the Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program involves the routine collection of water samples from 25 high use and/or potentially high risk public recreational sites from Perdido Bay to Dauphin Island, for details see http://adem.alabama.gov/programs/coastal). Inland swimming and recreational-use areas are not routinely monitored by the State. With increasing pressures on these inland waters from urban development, industrial needs, agricultural needs and others, there is increasing risk to the public health from contaminated waters (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2013). The Alabama Water Watch Program (AWW), based at Auburn University, has been training and certifying volunteer citizen monitors in Bacteriological Monitoring since 1996, and attained EPA approval on its bacteriological monitoring protocols in 1999. AWW monitors have been monitoring waters for E. coli contamination using AWW’s Coliscan Easygel method, and have compiled over 14,300 data records from over 2,000 sample sites throughout the state. Recent citizen monitoring efforts at public swimming areas have suggested significant differences in E. coli concentrations measured at the same site at different times of the day. Side-by-side monitoring by citizen monitors, agency personnel and private laboratory personnel have also yielded difference results. Recent research supports these citizen monitoring results. Research results and citizen data throw into question the adequacy of monitoring public swim areas only once a day. And if sampled once a day, what time of day would be most protective of public health. They also throw into question the source or sources of E. coli – emanating from the gut of warm-blooded animals, or also emanating from sources living out in the environment, such as in beach/lake/stream sediments.