The goal of this study was to determine if onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWS) were influencing groundwater and surface water Escherichia coli concentrations in a coastal plain watershed. Piezometers for groundwater monitoring were installed at four residences served by OWS and five residences served by a municipal wastewater treatment system (MWS). The residences were located in two different, but nearby (<3 km), watersheds. Effluent from the four septic tanks, groundwater from piezometers, and the streams draining the OWS and MWS watersheds were sampled on five dates between September 2011 and May 2012. Groundwater E. coli concentrations and specific conductivity were elevated within the flow path of the OWS and near the stream, relative to other groundwater sampling locations in the two watersheds. Groundwater discharge in the OWS watershed could be a contributor of E. coli to the stream because E. coli concentrations in groundwater at the stream bank and in the stream were similar. Stream E. coli concentrations were higher for the OWS in relation to MWS watersheds on each sampling date. Water quality could be improved by ensuring OWS are installed and operated to maintain adequate separation distances to water resources.

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