Distribution of genetic markers of fecal pollution on a freshwater sandy shoreline in proximity to wastewater effluent

Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Apr 2;47(7):3395-402. doi: 10.1021/es305116c. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Water, sand, and sediment from a Lake Superior harbor site continuously receiving wastewater effluent was sampled monthly for June to October 2010 and from May to September 2011. Understanding the dynamics of genetic markers of fecal bacteria in these matrices is essential to accurately characterizing health risks. Genetic markers for enterococci, total Bacteroides, and human-associated Bacteroides were measured in site-water, sand, and sediment and in final effluent by quantitative PCR. The similarity between the quantity of molecular markers in the water column and effluent indicated that the abundance of genetic markers in the water column was likely controlled by effluent inputs. Effluent turbidity was positively correlated (p ≤ 0.05) with AllBac and HF183 in final effluent and AllBac in the water column. In sand and sediment, Entero1 and AllBac were most abundant in the upper 1-3 cm depths, whereas HF183 was most abundant in the upper 1 cm of sand and at 7 cm in sediment. The AllBac and Entero1 markers were 1- and 2-orders of magnitude more abundant in sand and sediment relative to the water column per unit mass. These results indicate that sand and sediment may act as reservoirs for genetic markers of fecal pollution at some freshwater sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteroides / genetics
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Enterococcus / genetics
  • Enterococcus / growth & development
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Fresh Water / microbiology*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Geography
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Minnesota
  • Sewage / microbiology
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid*
  • Wastewater / microbiology*
  • Water Pollution / analysis*


  • Genetic Markers
  • Sewage
  • Waste Water
  • Silicon Dioxide