In many places, stormwater is discharged directly into rivers and coastal waters and carries with it undesirable bacteria, viruses and chemical contamination from aging sanitary sewer lines, overland run-off and pet waste, particularly after big rain events. A research project based in North Carolina is helping explore the causes, extent and risks associated with stormwater discharges by measuring bactieria that are indicators of human waste.
Fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) has been linked to public health issues including gastrointestinal diseases and other illnesses. Multiple sources of contamination including septic systems, failing wastewater infrastructure, and pet and wildlife feces all contribute to elevated FIB concentrations in stormwater runoff that often discharges into recreational waters. This impact on recreational waters amplifies public health concerns. While FIB levels are monitored at several large stormwater outfall sites near the Town of Beaufort, North Carolina, this study sought to characterize FIB concentrations away from existing study sites to further understand the impact of FIB contamination. Researchers specifically examined FIB concentrations within Taylor’s Creek and their association to the Town of Beaufort’s stormwater systems. Results showed that FIB levels in Taylor’s Creek exceeded recreational water quality standards in both wet and dry weather conditions, indicating FIB impact extends beyond identified stormwater outfalls.
About this document
This paper is a Senior Honors Thesis written by Kinsey Fisher, an advisee of Rachel Noble, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for an undergraduate degree from the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It describes a quantitative microbial assessment of stormwater in Beaufort, North Carolina, specifically the Taylor’s Creek area.
Fisher, Kinsey, 2019. Characterizing Microbial Contaminants Flowing into Taylor’s Creek, North Carolina. Honors thesis, University of North Carolina. Available at: https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/record/uuid:f080f62b-9ce8-48b3-a99e-f35b1a1f6d41