The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have established recreational water quality standards limiting the concentrations of faecal indicator bacteria (faecal coliform, E. coli, enterococci) to ensure that these waters are safe for swimming. In the application of these hygienic water quality standards, it is assumed that there are no significant environmental sources of these faecal indicator bacteria which are unrelated to direct faecal contamination. However, we previously reported that these faecal indicator bacteria are able to grow in the soil environment of humid tropical island environments such as Hawaii and Guam and are transported at high concentrations into streams and storm drains by rain. Thus, streams and storm drains in Hawaii contain consistently high concentrations of faecal indicator bacteria which routinely exceed the EPA and WHO recreational water quality standards. Since, streams and storm drains eventually flow out to coastal marine waters, we hypothesize that all the coastal beaches which receive run-off from streams and storm drains will contain elevated concentrations of faecal indicator bacteria. To test this hypothesis, we monitored the coastal waters at four beaches known to receive water from stream or storm drains for salinity, turbidity, and used the two faecal indicator bacteria (E. coli, enterococci) to establish recreational water quality standards. To determine if these coastal waters are contaminated with non-point source pollution (streams) or with point source pollution (sewage effluent), these same water samples were also assayed for spore-forming bacteria of faecal origin (Cl. perfringens) and of soil origin (Bacillus species). Using this monitoring strategy it was possible to determine when coastal marine waters were contaminated with non-point source pollution and when coastal waters were contaminated with point source pollution. The results of this study are most likely applicable to all countries in the warm and humid region of the world.

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