Fate and transport of enteric microbes from septic systems in a coastal watershed.
Onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) are commonly used in coastal areas to treat household wastewater. These systems represent potential sources of fecal pollution of groundwater and nearby surface water. OWTS are expected to reduce microbial concentrations in wastewater; however, system and environmental factors can affect treatment efficiency and impacts on ground and surface water. In the study of OWTS described in this article, the authors sampled septic tanks and groundwater at two households in coastal North Carolina between October 2009 and October 2011. Samples were tested for the fecal indicator microbes E. coli, enterococci, and Clostridium perfringens. Microbial source tracking was also performed in year two. Results showed that enteric microbe concentrations in groundwater significantly decreased with distance from the OWTS. Human markers of fecal contamination were also detected in the OWTS and downgradient groundwater, indicating that OWTS can impact the microbial quality of shallow groundwater.
Schneeberger, CL; O'Driscoll, M; Humphrey, C; Henry, K; Deal, N; Seiber, K; Hill, VR; Zarate-Bermudez, M
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