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Canine Scent Detection and Microbial Source Tracking of Human Waste Contamination in Storm Drains

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Human fecal contamination of surface waters and drains is difficult to diagnose. DNA-based and chemical analyses of water samples can be used to specifically quantify human waste contamination, but their expense precludes routine use. We evaluated canine scent tracking, using two dogs trained to respond to the scent of municipal wastewater, as a field approach for surveying human fecal contamination. Fecal indicator bacteria, as well as DNA-based and chemical markers of human waste, were analyzed in waters sampled from canine scent-evaluated sites (urban storm drains and creeks). In the field, the dogs responded positively (70% and 100%) at sites for which sampled waters were then confirmed as contaminated with human waste. When both dogs indicated a negative response, human waste markers were absent. Overall, canine scent tracking appears useful for prioritizing sampling sites for which DNA-based and similarly expensive assays can confirm and quantify human waste contamination.
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Keywords: canine scent detection; detector dog; illicit discharge; microbial source tracking; stormwater contamination

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

Publication date: 01 June 2014

This article was made available online on 06 November 2013 as a Fast Track article with title: "Canine Scent Detection and Microbial Source Tracking of Human Waste Contamination in Storm Drains".

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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