The microbiological water quality of a 23-mile segment of the Cuyahoga River within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park was examined in this study. This segment of the river receives discharges of contaminated water from stormwater, combined-sewer overflows, and incompletely disinfected wastewater. Frequent exceedances of Ohio microbiological water-quality standards result in a health risk to the public who use the river for water-contact recreation.
Water samples were collected during the recreational season of May through October at four sites on the Cuyahoga River in 2000, at three sites on the river in 2002, and from the effluent of the Akron Water Pollution Control Station (WPCS) both years. The samples were collected over a similar range in streamflow in 2000 and 2002. Samples were analyzed for physical and chemical constituents, as well as the following microbiological indicators and pathogenic organisms: Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, F-specific and somatic coliphage, enterovirus, infectious enterovirus, hepatitis A virus, Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens), Cryptosporidium, and Giardia. The relations of the microorganisms to each other and to selected water-quality measures were examined.
All microorganisms analyzed for, except Cryptosporidium, were detected at least once at each sampling site. Concentrations of E. coli exceeded the Ohio primary-contact recreational standard (298 colonies per 100 milliliters) in approximately 87 percent of the river samples and generally were higher in the river samples than in the effluent samples. C. perfringens concentrations were positively and significantly correlated with E. coli concentrations in the river samples and generally were higher in the effluent samples than in the river samples.
Several of the river samples that met the Ohio E. coli secondary-contact recreational standard (576 colonies per 100 milliliters) had detections of enterovirus, infectious enterovirus, hepatitis A virus, and Salmonella, indicating that there are still risks even when the E. coli standard is not exceeded. River samples in which the secondary-contact recreational standard for E. coli was exceeded showed a higher percentage of the co-occurrence of pathogenic organisms than samples that met the standard. This indicates that in this study area, E. coli is a useful indicator of human health risk.
Detections of hepatitis A virus tended to be associated with higher median concentrations of somatic coliphage, F-specific coliphage, and infectious enterovirus. In addition, geometric mean C. perfringens concentrations tended to be higher in samples where hepatitis A virus was present than in samples where hepatitis A virus was absent. Hepatitis A virus was not detected in samples collected upstream from the Akron WPCS; all downstream detections had coincident detections in the Akron WPCS effluent, suggesting that Akron WPCS was a principal source of hepatitis A virus at the downstream sites.
Geometric mean concentrations of E. coli were calculated on the basis of analytical results from at least five samples collected at each river site during May, July, and September of 2000. In each case, the Ohio geometric-mean primary-contact recreational standard of 126 col/100 mL was exceeded.
E. coli concentrations were significantly correlated with streamflow and increased with streamflow at sites upstream and downstream from the Akron WPCS. This indicates that E. coli loads from sources upstream from the Akron WPCS have the potential to appreciably influence the frequency of attainment of recreational water-quality standards at downstream locations.