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Variation of an indicator of Escherichia coli persistence from surface waters of mixed-use watersheds, and relationship with environmental factors

Lyautey, E., Wilkes, G., Miller, J.J., Van Bochove, E., Schreier, H., Koning, W., Edge, T.A., Lapen, D.R., Topp, E. (2011). Variation of an indicator of Escherichia coli persistence from surface waters of mixed-use watersheds, and relationship with environmental factors, 47(1), 11-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/limn/2010033

Abstract

Escherichia coli is an indicator of fecal pollution used to mandate recreational and drinking water quality. Concentrations of culturable E. coli following contamination of surface water are determined by three factors: dilution; cell attachment to particulate material and settling or resuspension in the water column; and the net rate of change in viability. This study evaluated the variability in the latter parameter, and how predictive variation in death rate was of culturable population densities at the time of sampling. Water samples (N=232) with varying levels of E. coli contamination were collected from 46 discrete locations in four watersheds across Canada over a three-month period and enumerated for culturable E. coli by membrane filtration plate counting (T0 EC). Water samples were again enumerated following a laboratory 24 h holding period at 30°C in the dark, and the difference considered the death rate (Δ EC). Relationships of T0 EC and Δ EC with environmental and water chemistry factors were explored using step-wise multiple regression. The model predicting T0 EC indicated that stream order, total rainfall seven days in advance of sampling day, total phosphorus, and Δ EC were the most significant contributors. The model predicting Δ EC indicated that turbidity and NH 3+NH 4 were the most important contributors. A model suggests that the persistence factor is less important than dilution (i.e. stream order) in describing E. coli densities, followed by factors that influence the loading of E. coli into watersheds. © EDP Sciences, 2010.

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