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Water Res. 2003 Sep;37(16):3978-82.

Fecal indicator bacteria are abundant in wet sand at freshwater beaches.

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Department of Biology, Central Michigan University, 157 Brooks Hall, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859, USA.


Potential fecal contamination of sand in the wave-washed zone of public bathing beaches is overlooked in beach monitoring programs. Activity in this zone can bring pathogens to the sand surface or into the water, presenting a health risk to sensitive populations. On a unit weight basis (colony forming units per 100g), the mean summer abundance of the fecal indicator bacteria enterococci and Escherichia coli was 3-38 times higher in the top 20 cm of wet-sand cores than in the water column at six freshwater bathing beaches. E. coli were 4 times more abundant than enterococci in water but counts were similar in the sand. A correlation (r=0.60) existed between E. coli counts in the water and in the top 5 cm of sand only, whereas no relationship existed between enterococci abundance in water and sand. In general, enterococci were most numerous in the 5-10 cm sand stratum and E. coli in the 0-5 cm stratum. These preliminary data show that wet freshwater beach sand is a reservoir of fecal indicator bacteria. Enteric pathogens may also be present in beach sand.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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