Exploring Innovative Techniques for Continuous, Real-time Monitoring of Fecal Contamination in the Clinton River Area of Concern
Fecal contamination is a wide-spread impairment to riverine and near-shore environments across the state of Michigan. Where fecal contamination is present, harmful human pathogens are likely to exist, potentially resulting in infectious diseases. Fecal contamination may also carry with it contaminants such as nutrients, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors, and other toxic compounds that cause adverse disruptions to aquatic ecosystems. While Escherichia coli (E. coli) water quality standards have laid the groundwork for monitoring fecal contamination, they are limited by the poor timeliness between E. coli sampling and lab analysis results. Additionally, wet-weather monitoring of E. coli requires substantial personnel availability and poses safety risks for those sampling. However, emergent technologies present a potential solution to these restrictions. Particularly, optical signals such as tryptophan-like-fluorescence and optical brighteners have been shown to correlate with sewage contamination in previous studies. These parameters can be monitored more easily than E. coli, and in a continuous fashion, to provide high volumes of data. In this study, the authors conducted a three-month pilot study to evaluate the prediction ability of these parameters under various hydrologic conditions in the Clinton River Watershed. This presentation will cover deployment methodologies, preliminary findings from the data, and lessons learned about the logistical and technical challenges of using optical signals for water quality monitoring. The results of this study will provide site-specific recommendations for using optical signatures as an indicator of fecal contamination to guide future monitoring campaigns.
Christine Brown, MS (CE)