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Fecal Source Tracking Using Human Toolkits Based on Library-independent Chemical and Microbial Markers

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An astounding number of the nation's waterways are impaired by non-point sources that might pose human health risks to recreational water users and shellfish consumers. For decades, the bacteria indicators used to measure these health risks, normally coliform organisms and/or Enterococcus, have been subject to significant scrutiny due to their ubiquity and persistence in environmental reservoirs. In fact, discharges of bacteria from relatively undeveloped watersheds often exhibit concentrations above state and federal water quality objectives (WQOs). As such, within the past decade, researchers have begun to utilize alternative indicators and enumeration methods during bacteria source assessments. Of particular interest have been human-specific "markers" due to concern that the most human-impacted runoff poses the most risk to downstream users. Recently the field of source tracking has shifted towards markers that are cultivation- and library-independent, which provide results that are quantitative, less expensive, and subject to shorter turnaround times than cultivation- and library-dependent methodologies. The work presented at this conference (TMDL 2007) consists of a panel presentation and paper. The presentation reviews a number of library-independent source tracking efforts that have been conducted during TMDL special studies of waterways in southern, northern, and central California. Specifically, these studies were based on a human-specific "tookit" that uses enteric bacteria of the phylum Bacteroidales and enteric virus groups known as enterovirus and adenovirus. The paper details a screening study of non-impaired but urbanized tributaries in northern California, evaluates the utility of a human-specific toolkit based on the chemical marker caffeine and Bacteroidales, and presents an approach to concurrently evaluate these two markers during upstream/downstream monitoring programs. The results of the studies presented in this presentation and paper should be of interest to a variety of stakeholders, particularly those involved with the challenge of complying with bacteria WQOs in urbanized waterways.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2007

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