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How Clean is the Water? Enterococcus and Fecal Coliform Tell Different Stories about CSO Control

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The US Environmental Protection Agency is advocating that beach managers monitor marine water quality at bathing beaches using counts of the indicator bacterium Enterococcus. As public health departments change their regulations (usually from a coliform indicator) to Enterococcus for marine beach monitoring, for consistency other state environmental agencies may change their water quality standards also. This paper explores the potential impacts of changing from the fecal coliform indicator to the Enterococcus indicator in three areas (1) monitoring disinfection of wastewater, including CSO; (2) monitoring receiving water quality for the relationship between fecal coliform and Enterococcus; and (3) monitoring changes in receiving water over time as improvements in CSO infrastructure are made.

The analyses suggest that, while changing to the Enterococcus indicator will not change our overall assessment of receiving water quality, there is a potential impact on the ability of CSO facilities and wastewater treatment plants to meet new water quality standards. In monitoring receiving water quality, Enterococcus may be a less sensitive indicator of change in environmental quality than fecal coliform.

As States begin to rewrite water quality standards and wastewater quality standards based on the Enterococcus indicator, it is imperative that more studies be done to improve the basic understanding of how this organism responds to treatment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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