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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Jul;70(7):4276-85.

Solar and temporal effects on Escherichia coli concentration at a Lake Michigan swimming beach.

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U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, 1100 N. Mineral Springs Rd., Porter, IN 46304, USA.


Studies on solar inactivation of Escherichia coli in freshwater and in situ have been limited. At 63rd St. Beach, Chicago, Ill., factors influencing the daily periodicity of culturable E. coli, particularly insolation, were examined. Water samples for E. coli analysis were collected twice daily between April and September 2000 three times a week along five transects in two depths of water. Hydrometeorological conditions were continuously logged: UV radiation, total insolation, wind speed and direction, wave height, and relative lake level. On 10 days, transects were sampled hourly from 0700 to 1500 h. The effect of sunlight on E. coli inactivation was evaluated with dark and transparent in situ mesocosms and ambient lake water. For the study, the number of E. coli samples collected (n) was 2,676. During sunny days, E. coli counts decreased exponentially with day length and exposure to insolation, but on cloudy days, E. coli inactivation was diminished; the E. coli decay rate was strongly influenced by initial concentration. In situ experiments confirmed that insolation primarily inactivated E. coli; UV radiation only marginally affected E. coli concentration. The relationship between insolation and E. coli density is complicated by relative lake level, wave height, and turbidity, all of which are often products of wind vector. Continuous importation and nighttime replenishment of E. coli were evident. These findings (i) suggest that solar inactivation is an important mechanism for natural reduction of indicator bacteria in large freshwater bodies and (ii) have implications for management strategies of nontidal waters and the use of E. coli as an indicator organism.

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