Elevated levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in bathing waters at North Beach, a popular recreational site in Racine, Wisconsin, have been a persistent problem often resulting in the issuance of poor water quality advisories. Moreover, waterfowl (mostly Larus delawarensis and L. argentatus) in nearshore and offshore areas are common and may serve as non-point sources for bacterial contamination of recreational waters. Current beach management practice involves daily mechanical grooming of the nearshore sand for aesthetics and removal of hazardous debris. However, this practice has not been evaluated in terms of its effects of E. coli loading to beach sand and potential introduction to contiguous swimming water. In this study, we tested E. coli responses to three treatments: mechanical groomer, daily and twice weekly hand raking, and a control (no raking./grooming). A randomized block design consisted of replicated treatments and one control (10 each), for a total of 40 blocks sampled daily for 10 days. Foreshore sand samples were collected by hand coring to an average depth of 10 cm. Median E. coli recovered were 73 (mechanically groomed), 27 (hand-raked daily), 32 (hand-raked twice weekly), and 22 (control) colongy-forming units (CFU) per gram dry weight sand. E. coli counts in sand that was groomed were significantly higher than hand rakings and control (p <0.0001), and there was no significant difference between control and raking treatments (p<0.01). This study demonstrates the beach management implications related to grooming efficacy and the importance of understanding non-point sources of bacterial contamination.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of beach grooming techniques on Escherichia coli density in foreshore sand at North Beach, Racine, WI