A multi-disciplinary approach to tracking the downstream impacts of inadequate sanitation in Central Appalachia
Cantor, Jacob Rothberg
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Poor sanitation infrastructure in rural areas can often lead to high levels of fecal contamination in local waterbodies and subsequent exposure to waterborne disease can occur. Although standard water quality measures such as quantification of E. coli can reveal relative concentrations of fecal contamination, they do not pinpoint the sources of such contamination. Source assessment in rural areas affected by untreated household waste might be improved with the human-specific, microbial source tracking marker HF183. This study attempted to quantify HF183 in two particular Appalachia streams with known discharges of untreated household waste. Water samples were taken above and at multiple points below these discharges on 29 occasions between August 2012 and April 2016, and tested for both HF183 and E. coli. HF183 was detected consistently in one of the study streams, though the concentrations were generally much lower than those previously reported in raw sewage; in the other watershed, HF183 was never detected. Further analysis via a multiple linear regression model showed a positive correlation between the level of E. coli and the proximity and number of known waste discharge points upstream from each sampling site. Primary conclusions of this study include: 1) HF183 is not always detected, even in watersheds with known sources of human fecal contamination, 2) it may be a useful water quality assessment tool where such contamination is suspected, particularly in cases where contaminant source allocation is necessary for setting mitigation priorities.
- Masters Theses