Water managers dealing with high levels of bacteria concentration can fix their problems better with the help of microbial source tracking (MST), according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Dr. Orin Shanks, a geneticist at the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, noted that traditional MST methods involve measuring the total amount of pollution cumulatively from all the different sources. Newer MST methods gives managers additional information to allow them to prioritize and focus remediation, Dr. Shanks said in a video shared by the Federal Laboratory Consortium.
According Dr. Shanks, fecal pollution is under most people’s radar but it is actually the number one biological contaminant in the country. “There’s over 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage discharged into our waters each year. In addition, there are over 1 billion tons of fecal matter generated by livestock and agricultural operations. This is a massive amount of waste.”
This waste, he said, can harbor pathogens or harmful microorganisms. When pathogens get into the water, it can lead to public and ecological risks. In addition, there can be severe economic loss especially in communities that rely on clean and safe water.
To illustrate, Dr. Shanks cited what might seem like a perfect day on the beach — people swimming, dogs running along the shore and seagulls flying overhead. But not many people may notice a nearby stream trickling urban runoff into the waters. This scenario isn’t uncommon. Reports about sewage leaks, beach closures and municipalities struggling with bacteria-related water pollution are often in the news.
Source Molecular Corporation has been at the forefront in the field of microbial source tracking. Its laboratory has worked with the EPA in various research projects. Source Molecular has regular webinars to update watershed managers about MST developments. In particular, Source Molecular emphasizes the need to identify the bacteria source before implementing remediation plans.
Source Molecular uses quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) to analyze the genetic components of fecal bacteria in water samples. Its laboratory has the capability of identifying 13 host sources — Human, Cattle, Swine, Gull, Goose, Chicken, Dog, Deer, Elk, Horse, Bird, Beaver and Ruminant. Source Molecular uses only the most accurate and most sensitive tests available to ensure clients obtain the most reliable results.