Chapter 3.4.5 : Microbial Source Tracking: Field Study Planning and Implementation

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Field study design and implementation are critical to the success of fecal source tracking (FST) studies. Significant advances in the field of microbial and chemical source tracking (MST or CST) provide access to a variety of analytical tools, beyond traditional culture-based measurements of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB), in the identification and apportionment of pollution sources adversely impacting water quality and of public health concern. Execution of investigative studies employing these tools requires a phased approach: defining the questions and desired outcome, site assessment, field sampling/laboratory analysis, confirmatory testing, statistical analysis, interpretation of results, and translation of results into actionable items. A sound study design addresses spatial and temporal variability as well as geographic distribution of markers or target organisms used to develop statistically robust data sets from which sound conclusions are drawn. While FST tools may be cutting edge, and informative in their own right, multiple lines of evidence are necessary to adequately characterize pollutant source, loading, and human exposure risk. Assessments of environmental, meteorological and hydrological parameters may increase accuracy in the assignation of relative contributions (from multiple sources) in complex environments. In the absence of strong correlation between FIB, physical attributes and MST or CST markers, a weight of evidence approach may be used to target human exposure interventions, which may take the form of engineered, naturalized, or educational measures. A multi-barrier approach to protecting public health, cognizant of confounding factors impacting the analytical or remediation process, should be stressed and include stakeholder engagement throughout the process.

Citation: Kinzelman J, Ahmed W. 2016. Microbial Source Tracking: Field Study Planning and Implementation, p 3.4.5-1-3.4.5-11. In Yates M, Nakatsu C, Miller R, Pillai S (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Fourth Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818821.ch3.4.5
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Decision tree approach to identifying pollution sources based on fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) density, relationship to environmental conditions, physical assessments and proximity to potential pollution sources. PPT, precipitation; FIB, fecal indicator bacteria; STDs, standards; IC, impervious cover; MST, microbial source tracking. doi: 10.1128/9781555818821.ch3.4.5.f1

Citation: Kinzelman J, Ahmed W. 2016. Microbial Source Tracking: Field Study Planning and Implementation, p 3.4.5-1-3.4.5-11. In Yates M, Nakatsu C, Miller R, Pillai S (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Fourth Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818821.ch3.4.5
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Image of FIGURE 2

Utilization of a decision tree approach in determining the source of fecal contamination at an urban river site; ultimately identifying and illicit connection. IC, impervious cover; OF, stormwater outfall; PPT, precipitation; DWF, dry weather flow; R, degree of determination (regression). doi: 10.1128/9781555818821.ch3.4.5.f2

Citation: Kinzelman J, Ahmed W. 2016. Microbial Source Tracking: Field Study Planning and Implementation, p 3.4.5-1-3.4.5-11. In Yates M, Nakatsu C, Miller R, Pillai S (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Fourth Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818821.ch3.4.5
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Generic image for table

Microbial and chemical source tracking tools (case studies) used to identify pollution sources at the case study sites, Racine, WI (USA) and various urban catchments in Brisbane, Australia

Citation: Kinzelman J, Ahmed W. 2016. Microbial Source Tracking: Field Study Planning and Implementation, p 3.4.5-1-3.4.5-11. In Yates M, Nakatsu C, Miller R, Pillai S (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Fourth Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818821.ch3.4.5

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