Microbial Source Tracking

Today, wastewater utilities face many regulatory challenges. With the advent of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for E. coli, it is more important than ever to identify pollutant sources so that contamination can be mitigated effectively.

Microbial Source Tracking is a tool that can assist regulators and engineers in the identification of sources of E. coli contamination such as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and non-point source pollution from dogs, cats, or other animals.  The technology can also be employed to help make decisions related to identifying contaminant sources that affect recreational waters (e.g. recreational beach closures).

SMI offers multiple options for gathering E. coli source tracking information.  E. coli source data can be obtained by characterizing coliphage serotypes within the affected water body. Dr. Fu-Chih Hsu, SMI’s Director of Operations, was one of the principal developers of the EPA methods for detecting coliphages in water .  SMI scientists have further adapted these techniques for application to microbial source tracking efforts to study the relationships between coliphages and the species of origin. It is now possible to perform analyses using coliphages as biomarkers to determine whether a water body is affected primarily by human wastewater or by nonpoint discharges of fecal contamination arising from animals.