Confirmation of putative stormwater impact on water quality at a Florida beach by microbial source tracking methods and structure of indicator organism populations

Water Res. 2007 Aug;41(16):3747-57. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2007.04.001. Epub 2007 Jun 1.


The effect of a stormwater conveyance system on indicator bacteria levels at a Florida beach was assessed using microbial source tracking methods, and by investigating indicator bacteria population structure in water and sediments. During a rain event, regulatory standards for both fecal coliforms and Enterococcus spp. were exceeded, contrasting with significantly lower levels under dry conditions. Indicator bacteria levels were high in sediments under all conditions. The involvement of human sewage in the contamination was investigated using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for the esp gene of Enterococcus faecium and for the conserved T antigen of human polyomaviruses, all of which were negative. BOX-PCR subtyping of Escherichia coli and Enterococcus showed higher population diversity during the rain event; and higher population similarity during dry conditions, suggesting that without fresh inputs, only a subset of the population survives the selective pressure of the secondary habitat. These data indicate that high indicator bacteria levels were attributable to a stormwater system that acted as a reservoir and conduit, flushing high levels of indicator bacteria to the beach during a rain event. Such environmental reservoirs of indicator bacteria further complicate the already questionable relationship between indicator organisms and human pathogens, and call for a better understanding of the ecology, fate and persistence of indicator bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bathing Beaches / standards*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Enterococcus / isolation & purification
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Florida
  • Fresh Water / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polyomavirus
  • Rain / microbiology*
  • Water Pollution / analysis


  • DNA, Viral