Bacterial contamination associated with estuarine shoreline development.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


To examine the relationships among increasing estuarine shellfish closings due to bacterial contamination, adjacent shoreline land uses and environmental variables.

Methods and results

A 1 year study of faecal coliform bacterial contamination of a small estuary in central NC, USA was done relative to adjacent land uses. The area has experienced rapid growth in residential shoreline development including the installation of adjacent, separate docking facilities for larger boats, each <11 slips (pseudomarina) that appear to be a single marina (individual facilities of >10 slips). Six near-shore sites were selected [old developed shore (OD), undeveloped shore (UD), two pseudomarinas (P1, P2), newly developed shore (ND) and a real marina (RM)]. Five locations were spaced along the shore near each site. Paired Thursday/Monday samples were collected biweekly (summer) and monthly (other seasons). Results indicate that OD had the highest bacteria counts followed by ND, RM and P1 & P2. Three sites (OD, ND and RM) failed to meet NC shellfishing waters standards at all locations. At the pseudomarina sites 4 of 10 locations failed to meet shellfish standards while two locations at UD failed to meet these standards. There were no significant differences between paired Thursday/Monday samples. At three sites (OD, UD and P2) bacteria counts were positively correlated with increased water level due to wind tides.


Any type of estuarine shoreline development may result in closing of adjacent shellfishing waters. ND had bacterial counts second only to OD in spite of the retention of vegetated shoreline buffers and very new septic systems. As expected, the RM also failed to meet shellfish standards. Unexpectedly, only four of the 10 pseudomarina locations failed to meet the standards. Weekend boat use had no effect on bacterial counts. Surface runoff from rain and shoreline flooding from increased water levels increased bacterial counts, probably as a result of suspension of surface deposited faeces from wildlife and domestic animals.

Significance and impact of the study

Multiple docking facilities do not necessarily result in violations of shellfish water quality standards. However, the elevated bacterial counts observed along the newly developed shore suggest caution in approving the practice of allowing individual 'oyster gardening' off private piers if the oysters are intended for human consumption. The practice of automatic closure of shellfish waters around RMs was supported. Correlations of bacterial counts with time following significant rainfall suggests a sampling strategy to separate local sources of bacteria from more remote sources thus focusing limited remedial resources more effectively.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kirby-Smith, WW; White, NM

Published Date

  • April 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 100 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 648 - 657

PubMed ID

  • 16553719

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1365-2672

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1364-5072

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2005.02797.x


  • eng