Reducing Bacterial Contamination In Waterways

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Presentation at the River Network "River Rally" conference in Baltimore, Maryland May 29th - June 1st. Our workshop discussed Milwaukee Riverkeeper\'s IDDE program specifically focused on bacteria …

Presentation at the River Network "River Rally" conference in Baltimore, Maryland May 29th - June 1st. Our workshop discussed Milwaukee Riverkeeper\'s IDDE program specifically focused on bacteria monitoring for human sewage, using genetic testing to determine the presence of Bacteroides, a specific human marker for human sewage.

We discuss how many stormwater outfalls we found containing human sewage, our documentation of the data, the use of GIS and Google Maps and Google Earth for displaying the data and how to move forward to fix this serious human health risk and pollution problem.

Cheryl Nenn and I co-presented this presentation/workshop. Slides 11 - 32 were presented by me, while Cheryl presented slides 2 - 10 and 33 - 34.

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  • 1. Reducing Bacterial Contamination in Waterways
    Cheryl Nenn: Milwaukee Riverkeeper
    Jason Schroeder: Water Quality Assistant
  • 2. Milwaukee Riverkeeper
    Our mission is to protect water quality and wildlife habitat and advocate for sound land use in the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic River Watersheds. Our vision is for fishable and swimmable waters in our rivers and Lake Michigan.
  • 3. We are the Milwaukee Riverkeeper®
    One of 188+ Waterkeepers around the world licensed by the Waterkeeper Alliance, based in New York
    We are an independent watchdog for the river
    We respond to citizen concerns and complaints
    We find solutions to environmental problems affecting our waterways
    We have a physical presence on the river, coordinate citizen based stream monitoring, and bacterial monitoring/illicit discharge detection
  • 4. SEWRPC Regional Water Quality Plan
    Riverkeeper served on the Technical Advisory Committee
    Menomonee model robust with data at 18 assessment points (USGS, DNR, MMSD, citizens)
    Modeling showed fecal coliform levels in one section of the Menomonee River (between Burleigh and 60th) that regularly exceeded the recreational use standard (200 colonies/100 mls) by 15 times.
    Max fecal coliform was 1,500 times the standard!
  • 5. Diagnosing a Problem
    Modeling showed bacterial levels much higher than anticipated from stormwater runoff alone—subsurface flows suspected
    Model predictions did not calibrate with field collected data, and bacteria were high during “dry” weather in this section
    Likely source of bacteria from aged and failing sanitary sewage and stormwater infrastructure (illicit discharges and cross connections)
  • 6. Why Fecal Coliform?
    Fecal coliform was selected for modeling because they can be used as an indicator of human sewage
    We have water quality standards for fecal coliform in WI (NR 102)
    Large amount of data existed for fecal coliform due to regulatory standard.
    Fecal used as recreational use standard for beach closings (E. coli standard also exists)
  • 7. Why Fecal Coliform?
    Fecal coliform as well as E. coli serve as indicators of a broader range of threats to human health including pathogens associated with human sewage and animal waste
    • Pathogens include viruses and bacteria such as Salmonella spp., Vibrio cholerae, Shigella dysenteries, and protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
  • SEWRPC Recommendations
    Fecal not sufficient indicator of threat to human health
    SEWRPC recommended new program to focus on pathogens from human sources that are most likely to be harmful to human health (animal sources could also pose threats)
    SEWRPC recommended aggressive program for detection and elimination of illicit discharges (also required under national and State stormwater regs)
    Also recommended human health and risk assessments to assess pathogens in stormwater runoff (exposure routes, dose-response, etc)
  • 8. E. coli, Enterococcus, Bacteroides, oh my
    E. coli — found in many animals/short lived/but can be counted “dead”
    Enterococcus — more human specific/lives longer/less accurate
    Bacteroides marker—common marker that is unique to humans and not found in other hosts (cows, raccoons, etc).
    Sometimes genes can be inhibited by other pollutants (heavy metals, etc); DNA extraction can be inefficient
    Gene target
  • 9. Overall Project Overview
    Where should we study? 8 mile area of Menomonee River and adjacent tributaries that discharge to this area
    What parameters should we monitor for? E. coli, Enterococcus, Bacteroides (for selected “suspicious” outfalls)
    Who will test (who will pay), when, and how? Riverkeeper does sample collection; UWM-GLWI does testing; tests during dry and wet weather
  • 10. Planning phase
    GIS data acquisition - can be a lengthy process
    Obtain data for study area
    Does area cover multiple municipalities? (One stop shopping?)
    Types of GIS data
    Stormwater outfalls (local Sewerage District)
    Storm sewers (local Sewerage District)
    Aerial imagery (local planning department)
    Hydrology layers (State DNR, USDA Geospatial Data Gateway)
  • 11.
  • 12. Planning phase continued…
    GIS analysis to prioritize outfalls
    Which outfalls drain the largest areas?
    Which outfalls are likely to contain human bacteria?
    Residential areas
    Industrial areas
    Agriculture areas
    Print maps for identification & field sampling
    Send coordinates from GIS to GPS for hard to find outfalls
    Create form for field sampling
  • 13. Form modified from: Center for Watershed Protection @
  • 14. Sampling methods – Year One
    Grab all outfalls running in dry weather
    Grab as many outfalls during rain events as possible
    Sample directly at outfall via sampling pole
    Samples immediately stored on ice to preserve bacteria
  • 15. Sampling methods continued
    GLWI cultures for E. coli and Enterococcus on plates
    Count bacteria colonies
    High bacteria counts are candidates for DNA testing for human marker (Bacteroides)
  • 16. Resample/verification
    Many samples have questionable results
    Diluted from stormwater or interference from organic substances, metals, etc…
  • 17. Further testing/retesting
    Sample all outfalls not tested in wet weather during the first year
    Classify tested outfalls as:
    “BAD” – need no further testing
    “GOOD” – need no further testing (requires 2 negative results)
    “QUESTIONABLE” – need further testing
    Prioritize questionable outfalls for retesting:
    Outfalls with highest bacteria counts and negative for human marker
    Outfalls with largest drainage area for 2nd year
  • 18. Reasons for using a GIS
    Repository for outfall results and field notes
  • 19. Reasons for using a GIS continued…
    Provide analysis for outfall prioritization
    Produce professional quality maps
    Provide documentation to Municipalities
    Export to Google Maps or Google Earth for public viewing
    Google Earth (basic KML editor)
    Import KML to Google Maps
  • 20. Use of Google Earth
    Basic functions of a GIS to the desktop for free
    Satellite imagery already there
    Easy to share GIS data for others to view
    Export layers from GIS as a KML file
    KML file is an overlay on Google Earth
    Publish KML file on web site or email sharing
    Use as a KML editor
    Display and edit text, data, and images easily
  • 21.
  • 22. “Export to KML” Google Earth or Maps
  • 23.
  • 24. Google Maps and alternatives
    Constantly getting easier to make maps
    Advantage: Anyone can view – no special software
    Quick access
    Balloons allow display of data, pictures, text
    Promote our work to the general public, fundraise
    Can integrate our Citizen Based Stream Monitoring and Cleanup Sites
  • 25. Bacteria statistics
    93 samples analyzed for E. coli & Enterococcus
    E. coli ranged from 0 – 630,000 and greater (Too Numerous To Count)
    Enterococcus ranged from 0 – 1,300,000
    Median = 2,620
    Mean = 48,941
    Geometric Mean = 3,465
  • 26.
  • 27. Bacteroides statistics
    144 total outfalls identified
    93 total samples analyzed
    48 during baseflow
    45 during wet weather
    74 unique outfalls (19 samples – duplicates)
    46 during baseflow & wet weather
    28 during wet weather only
    (40.5%) of outfalls sampled tested positive for human Bacteroides (30 of 74 outfalls)
  • 28.
  • 29.
  • 30. GIS Resources
    GIS software:
    ArcGIS desktop for non-profits (ArcView, $175, 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst, $195) -
    ArcGIS grants program (ArcView, ArcEditor, ArcINFO, extensions - Minimum $100) -
    GRASS GIS (Open source, free) -
    Google Earth (free) -
    GIS tools:
    Minnesota DNR GPS tool for ArcGIS (free) -
    ESRI Export to KML script (City of Portland, free download) -
    KML to Shapefile converter (online web browser, free) -
    Shapefile to KML converter (free download) -
    GIS data:
    USDA Geospatial Data Gateway -
    U.S. Geodata –
  • 31. Working with Municipalities
    Opportunity for partnerships with municipalities for illicit discharge detection and public outreach
    Help municipalities prioritize repairs
    Outreach to private homeowners regarding need for lateral repairs (e.g. 78th and Mt. Vernon); city pilot project
    Encouraging/supporting requests for stimulus, SRF funding, Great Lakes Restoration funding, etc.
    Milwaukee area alone needs $1B in sewer repairs
  • 32. Stimulus/Infrastructure Funding
    State of WI SRF program: $200M per year
    Stimulus funds for wastewater in 2009: $106M
    Requested “shovel ready” projects for SRF in Wisconsin for 2009 (Intent to Apply): $1.2B
    Need for additional funds
    Need for new technologies (pipe sealing, end of the pipe treatments, etc)?
  • 33. Help is on the way?!
    Southeastern Wisconsin Watershed Trust (SWWT) - goal to implement programs and practices that will most cost-effectively improve water quality
    Joyce funded NGOs — received funding to help create and implement watershed restoration plans (based on SEWRPC plans) for the Menomonee and KK Watersheds.
    Milwaukee 7 Water Council – focused on advancing technologies to improve water quality/making Milwaukee a freshwater tech “hub”and UN Global Compact City
    UW-Milwaukee - investing in new school of Freshwater Sciences and expansion of Great Lakes Water Institute
    And not a moment too soon!
  • 34. Milwaukee Riverkeeper
    Phone: (414) 287-0207
    Cheryl Nenn x229
    Jason Schroeder x235
  • 35. Bacteria Resources
    Great Lakes Water Institute (McLellan Lab) -
    Bacteria research publications:
    Bower, P.A., Scopel, C.O., Jensen, E.T., Depas, M.M. & McLellan, S.L. 2005. Detection of genetic markers of fecal indicator bacteria in Lake Michigan and determination of their relationship to Escherichia coli densities using standard microbiological methods.Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 71(12): 8305-8313
    McLellan, S.L. 2004. Genetic diversity of Escherichia coli isolated from urban rivers and beach water. Appl. Environ. Microbiol.70(8):4858-65
    McLellan, S.L., Daniels, A.D. & Salmore, A.K. 2003. Genetic characterization of Escherichia coli populations from host sources of fecal pollution by using DNA fingerprinting. Appl. Environ. Microbiol.69(5):2587-94