Many bacterial source tracking (BST) methods are too expensive for most communities to afford. In an effort to develop an inexpensive method of detecting human sources of fecal contamination in a freshwater creek during baseflow and stormflow conditions, we combined targeted sampling with fluorometry. Targeted sampling is a prelude to BST and finds sources of fecal contamination by continued sampling and resampling over ever-decreasing distances. Fluorometry identifies human fecal contamination in water by detecting fluorescing compounds, optical brighteners, from laundry detergents. Potato Creek, a freshwater creek in Georgia (U.S.A.), had three reaches identified as containing high numbers of fecal bacteria, and these reaches were sampled by targeted sampling and fluorometry. Targeted sampling quickly and inexpensively identified humans, cattle, and dogs as the major sources of fecal contamination in the first, second, and third reaches, respectively. Fluorometric values were consistent with these identifications, but high fluorometric values were sometimes observed in areas with no fecal contamination. One likely cause of these false-positive signals was fluorescence from organic matter. For targeted sampling, the cost of each sample was $6, with a one-time equipment cost of $3,650; for fluorometry, the cost of each sample was negligible, with a one-time equipment cost of $14,250. This was the first study of this relatively inexpensive combination in freshwater during both baseflow and stormflow conditions.
Combining targeted sampling and fluorometry to identify human fecal contamination in a freshwater creek
Peter G. Hartel, Karen Rodgers, Gwyneth L. Moody, Sarah N. J. Hemmings, Jared A. Fisher, Jennifer L. McDonald; Combining targeted sampling and fluorometry to identify human fecal contamination in a freshwater creek. J Water Health 1 March 2008; 6 (1): 105–116. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/wh.2007.004
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