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Using Shellfish To Determine Appropriate Effluent Limits for Bacteria

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Water quality standards for shellfish growing areas are based on concentrations of coliform in water. Previous studies off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA have shown that there is little to no correlation between concentrations of bacteria in water and those found in shellfish. Because of their ability to filter water, shellfish are much more sensitive indicators of bacterial water quality than is reliance on water sample analysis.

In this study an array of shellfish was placed around the outfall for the City of Santa Barbara's El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant. Effluent coliform concentrations were controlled and shellfish tissue was collected and analyzed for coliform bacteria. Because shellfish filter a large volume of water each day, they provide a high volume, time-integrated sample, and are therefore more representative than water samples. Additionally, shellfish samples are less time dependent than are water samples. It takes little time for coliform to be assimilated, but several hours for shellfish to depurate, than are water samples. Using an array of shellfish around the City of Santa Barbara's El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant (El Estero) outfall diffuser, we were able to effectively show that the existing limit for coliform was overly protective, and that increasing the concentration by an order of magnitude caused no impact to shellfish. Study results showed that shellfish are a sensitive receptor for bacteria, and that varying effluent and receiving water bacteria concentrations are effectively characterized by sampling shellfish meat tissue.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2000-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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