Introduced pathogens from faecal material can make their way into the aquatic environment from a number of catchment sources. These sources typically include sewage outfalls, seepage from septic tanks, and urban and agricultural runoff. Shellfish as filter feeders are particularly susceptible to contamination in faecally contaminated waters and a range of microbiological indicators have been developed to assess the levels of contamination and likely risks to public health (Hackney and Pierson, 1994). This paper outlines the application of bacterial source tracking (BST) in a shellfish growing area in part of the Port Stephens estuary along the NSW north coast. The approach is based on the premise that bacterial isolates from different faecal sources will have significantly different resistance patterns to the battery of antibiotics and concentrations tested. Faecal streptococci (FS) were isolated from several possible faecal sources: beef and dairy cattle, chickens and humans. The resistance patterns of these isolates to four different concentrations of four antibiotics were compared to those of FS isolates obtained from samples collected upstream and in the vicinity of the oyster leases. Discriminant analysis was performed using the patterns from the known source isolates and the rate of correct classification was determined for each source. The predictive function of discriminant analysis was then used to determine the most probable source of each of the unknown isolates from Tilligerry Creek, the drainage channels to the estuary, and the shellfish leases. Preliminary results are presented here and suggest that there is no single significant source of faecal contamination, rather there are contributions from a range of sources. The findings may have implications for the ways in which land use activities and catchments are managed in similar estuarine locations with a shellfish industry.

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