Little information exists on the co-occurrence of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB), bacterial pathogens, and organic wastewater-associated chemicals (OWCs) within Great Lakes tributaries. Fifteen watershed sites and one beach site adjacent to the Little Calumet River–Portage Burns Waterway (LCRPBW) on Lake Michigan were tested on four dates for pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, chloride, color, ammonia- and nitrate-nitrogen, soluble phosphorus, sulfate, turbidity, and atrazine; for concentrations of FIB; and for genes indicating the presence of human-pathogenic enterococci (ENT) and of Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (EC) from various animal sources. Nineteen samples were also tested for 60 OWCs. Half of the watershed samples met EC recreational water quality standards; none met ENT standards. Human-wastewater-associated OWC detections were correlated with human-influence indicators such as population/km2, chloride concentrations, and the presence of WWTP effluents, but EC and ENT concentrations were not. Bacterial pathogen genes indicated rural human and several potential animal sources. OWCs of human or ecosystem health concern (musk fragrances AHTN and HHCB, alkylphenols, carbamazepine) and 3 bacterial pathogen genes were detected at the mouth of the LCRPBW, but no such OWCs and only 1 pathogen gene were detected at the beach. The LCRPBW has significant potential to deliver FIB, potential bacterial pathogens, and OWCs of human or ecosystem health concern to the nearshore of Lake Michigan, under conditions enhancing nearshore transport of the river plume. Nearshore mixing of lake and river water, and the lack of relationship between OWCs and FIB or pathogen genes, pose numerous challenges for watershed and nearshore assessment and remediation.
Additional publication details
Dynamics of fecal indicator bacteria, bacterial pathogen genes, and organic wastewater contaminants in the Little Calumet River: Portage Burns Waterway, Indiana