Loading of fecal indicator bacteria in North Carolina tidal creek headwaters: Hydrographic patterns and terrestrial runoff relationships

Curtis H. Stumpf, Michael F. Piehler, Suzanne Thompson, Rachel T. Noble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

In the New River Estuary (NRE) in eastern North Carolina (NC), fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) levels exceed water quality standards, leading to closure of estuarine waters for shellfishing and classification of parts of the estuary as " impaired" per the Clean Water Act section 303(d) list. As a means to investigate fecal contamination and loading of FIB to the NRE, a continuous automated sampler (ISCO) outfitted with flow modules and water quality probes was placed in four first-order tidal creek headwaters. Total storm discharge and bacterial load for Escherichia coli (EC) and Enterococcus spp. (ENT) were calculated using graphical volumetric flow calculations and interpolation of FIB measurements over each storm's duration for 10 storms. Mean total load of 109- 1012 EC and ENT cells (MPN) occurred over the course of each storm. Total storm loading, averaged across all storms, was as much as 30 and 37 times greater than equivalent duration of baseflow loading for EC and ENT, respectively. Within the first 30% of creek storm volume for all storms and all creeks combined, a mean cumulative load of only 37% and 44% of the total EC and ENT cells, respectively, was discharged, indicating these creeks are not demonstrating a 'first flush' scenario for FIB. The median storm Event Mean Concentrations (EMCs) were 6.37 × 102 and 2.03 × 102 MPN/100 mL, for EC and ENT, respectively, compared with median baseflow concentrations of 1.48 × 102 and 4.84 × 101 for EC and ENT, respectively, and were significantly different between base and storm flow events. FIB was correlated with TSS (weak), flow rate (strong), and different stages (base, rising, peak, and falling) of the hydrograph (strong). Pollutographs indicate large intra-storm variability of FIB, and the need for more intensive sampling throughout a storm in order to attain accurate FIB contaminant estimates. Instream sediment concentrations ranged from 5 to 478 (MPN/g) and 13 to 776 (MPN/g) for EC and ENT, respectively, indicating sediment as a source, but a minor reservoir. This overall approach for calculating loading in headwater tidal creeks is detailed. Accurate loading characterization of FIB during storms and dry weather conditions, and understanding intra-storm FIB concentrations, is imperative for understanding patterns of water quality impairment, establishing management planning, and developing appropriate mitigation strategies.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages4704-4715
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Volume44
Issue number16
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010

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Runoff
headwater
Bacteria
runoff
bacterium
Escherichia coli
Estuaries
Water quality
estuary
baseflow
creek
indicator
water quality
Sediments
Rivers
hydrograph
river
sediment
sampler
interpolation

Keywords

  • Event mean concentration
  • Fecal indicator bacteria
  • First flush
  • Hydrograph
  • Loading characterization
  • Pollutograph
  • Storm flow
  • Terrestrial runoff
  • Tidal creek
  • Total suspended solids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

Cite this

Loading of fecal indicator bacteria in North Carolina tidal creek headwaters : Hydrographic patterns and terrestrial runoff relationships. / Stumpf, Curtis H.; Piehler, Michael F.; Thompson, Suzanne; Noble, Rachel T.

In: Water Research, Vol. 44, No. 16, 01.09.2010, p. 4704-4715.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "In the New River Estuary (NRE) in eastern North Carolina (NC), fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) levels exceed water quality standards, leading to closure of estuarine waters for shellfishing and classification of parts of the estuary as {"} impaired{"} per the Clean Water Act section 303(d) list. As a means to investigate fecal contamination and loading of FIB to the NRE, a continuous automated sampler (ISCO) outfitted with flow modules and water quality probes was placed in four first-order tidal creek headwaters. Total storm discharge and bacterial load for Escherichia coli (EC) and Enterococcus spp. (ENT) were calculated using graphical volumetric flow calculations and interpolation of FIB measurements over each storm's duration for 10 storms. Mean total load of 109- 1012 EC and ENT cells (MPN) occurred over the course of each storm. Total storm loading, averaged across all storms, was as much as 30 and 37 times greater than equivalent duration of baseflow loading for EC and ENT, respectively. Within the first 30{\%} of creek storm volume for all storms and all creeks combined, a mean cumulative load of only 37{\%} and 44{\%} of the total EC and ENT cells, respectively, was discharged, indicating these creeks are not demonstrating a 'first flush' scenario for FIB. The median storm Event Mean Concentrations (EMCs) were 6.37 × 102 and 2.03 × 102 MPN/100 mL, for EC and ENT, respectively, compared with median baseflow concentrations of 1.48 × 102 and 4.84 × 101 for EC and ENT, respectively, and were significantly different between base and storm flow events. FIB was correlated with TSS (weak), flow rate (strong), and different stages (base, rising, peak, and falling) of the hydrograph (strong). Pollutographs indicate large intra-storm variability of FIB, and the need for more intensive sampling throughout a storm in order to attain accurate FIB contaminant estimates. Instream sediment concentrations ranged from 5 to 478 (MPN/g) and 13 to 776 (MPN/g) for EC and ENT, respectively, indicating sediment as a source, but a minor reservoir. This overall approach for calculating loading in headwater tidal creeks is detailed. Accurate loading characterization of FIB during storms and dry weather conditions, and understanding intra-storm FIB concentrations, is imperative for understanding patterns of water quality impairment, establishing management planning, and developing appropriate mitigation strategies.",
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