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Distribution and Significance of Fecal Indicator Organisms in the Upper Chesapeake Bay

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  • Applied Environmental And Public Health Microbiology


Total viable aerobic, heterotrophic bacteria, total coliforms, fecal coliforms, and fecal streptococci were enumerated in samples collected at five stations located in the Upper Chesapeake Bay, December 1973 through December 1974. Significant levels of pollution indicator organisms were detected at all of the stations sampled. Highest counts were observed in samples collected at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. The indicator organisms examined were observed to be quantitatively distributed independently of temperature and salinity. Counts were not found to be correlated with concentration of suspended sediment. However, significant proportions of both the total viable bacteria (53%) and fecal indicator organisms (>80%) were directly associated with suspended sediments. Correlation coefficients (r) for the indicator organisms examined in this study ranged from r = 0.80 to r = 0.99 for bottom water and suspended sediment, respectively. Prolonged survival of fecal streptococci in most of the sediment samples was observed, with concomitant reduction of the correlation coefficient from r = 0.99, fecal streptococci to total coliforms in water, to r = 0.01, fecal streptococci to fecal coliforms in sediments. The results of this study compared favorably with fecal coliforms: fecal streptococci ratios for the various sample types. Characterization of organisms beyond the confirmed most-probable-number procedure provided good correlation between bacterial indicator groups.

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