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Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Jul 1;45(13):5652-9. doi: 10.1021/es2003167. Epub 2011 Jun 10.

Combining land use information and small stream sampling with PCR-based methods for better characterization of diffuse sources of human fecal pollution.

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US Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH, USA.


Diffuse sources of human fecal pollution allow for the direct discharge of waste into receiving waters with minimal or no treatment. Traditional culture-based methods are commonly used to characterize fecal pollution in ambient waters, however these methods do not discern between human and other animal sources of fecal pollution making it difficult to identify diffuse pollution sources. Human-associated quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) methods in combination with low-order headwatershed sampling, precipitation information, and high-resolution geographic information system land use data can be useful for identifying diffuse source of human fecal pollution in receiving waters. To test this assertion, this study monitored nine headwatersheds over a two-year period potentially impacted by faulty septic systems and leaky sanitary sewer lines. Human fecal pollution was measured using three different human-associated qPCR methods and a positive significant correlation was seen between abundance of human-associated genetic markers and septic systems following wet weather events. In contrast, a negative correlation was observed with sanitary sewer line densities suggesting septic systems are the predominant diffuse source of human fecal pollution in the study area. These results demonstrate the advantages of combining water sampling, climate information, land-use computer-based modeling, and molecular biology disciplines to better characterize diffuse sources of human fecal pollution in environmental waters.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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