Environmental factors and flow paths related to Escherichia coli concentrations at two beaches on Lake St. Clair, Michigan, 2002–2005

Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5028
Prepared in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
By: , and 



Regression analyses and hydrodynamic modeling were used to identify environmental factors and flow paths associated with Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentrations at Memorial and Metropolitan Beaches on Lake St. Clair in Macomb County, Mich. Lake St. Clair is part of the binational waterway between the United States and Canada that connects Lake Huron with Lake Erie in the Great Lakes Basin. Linear regression, regression-tree, and logistic regression models were developed from E. coli concentration and ancillary environmental data.

Linear regression models on log10 E. coli concentrations indicated that rainfall prior to sampling, water temperature, and turbidity were positively associated with bacteria concentrations at both beaches. Flow from Clinton River, changes in water levels, wind conditions, and log10 E. coli concentrations 2 days before or after the target bacteria concentrations were statistically significant at one or both beaches. In addition, various interaction terms were significant at Memorial Beach. Linear regression models for both beaches explained only about 30 percent of the variability in log10 E. coli concentrations.

Regression-tree models were developed from data from both Memorial and Metropolitan Beaches but were found to have limited predictive capability in this study. The results indicate that too few observations were available to develop reliable regression-tree models.

Linear logistic models were developed to estimate the probability of E. coli concentrations exceeding 300 most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters (mL). Rainfall amounts before bacteria sampling were positively associated with exceedance probabilities at both beaches. Flow of Clinton River, turbidity, and log10 E. coli concentrations measured before or after the target E. coli measurements were related to exceedances at one or both beaches. The linear logistic models were effective in estimating bacteria exceedances at both beaches. A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to determine cut points for maximizing the true positive rate prediction while minimizing the false positive rate.

A two-dimensional hydrodynamic model was developed to simulate horizontal current patterns on Lake St. Clair in response to wind, flow, and water-level conditions at model boundaries. Simulated velocity fields were used to track hypothetical massless particles backward in time from the beaches along flow paths toward source areas. Reverse particle tracking for idealized steady-state conditions shows changes in expected flow paths and traveltimes with wind speeds and directions from 24 sectors. The results indicate that three to four sets of contiguous wind sectors have similar effects on flow paths in the vicinity of the beaches. In addition, reverse particle tracking was used for transient conditions to identify expected flow paths for 10 E. coli sampling events in 2004. These results demonstrate the ability to track hypothetical particles from the beaches, backward in time, to likely source areas. This ability, coupled with a greater frequency of bacteria sampling, may provide insight into changes in bacteria concentrations between source and sink areas.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Environmental factors and flow paths related to Escherichia coli concentrations at two beaches on Lake St. Clair, Michigan, 2002–2005
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2008-5028
DOI 10.3133/sir20085028
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Michigan Water Science Center
Description vi, 38 p.
Country Canada, United States
Other Geospatial Lake St. Clair
Online Only (Y/N) Y