“The widespread use of in-ground waste disposal through septic tanks and injection wells appears to be leading to the contamination of submarine groundwater even up to six miles offshore,” said study author Erin Lipp, associate professor at the UGA College of Public Health. “When the contaminated groundwater mixes with surface water and reaches the reef, the corals as well as human health might be harmed.”
The findings were presented Tuesday at a meeting of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Water Quality Protection Program Steering Committee in Marathon, Fla.
Lipp and doctoral student Carrie Futch, along with Dale Griffin of the U.S. Geological Survey in Tallahassee, sampled surface water, groundwater and corals from five sites from nearshore to offshore beginning outside of Port Largo Canal and ending near Molasses Reef. Their three-year study revealed common fecal indicator bacteria and human viruses.
The fecal indicator bacteria, which are not pathogens themselves but rather serve as surrogates for other disease-causing microbes found in sewage, declined with distance from shore but tended to be elevated in the surface layers of coral mucus relative to the surrounding water. High levels of fecal indicator bacteria from canals were also shown to move into the nearshore environment on outgoing tides. Lipp said the detection of these bacteria in predominantly nearshore stations suggests that land-based sources of sewage pollution such as cesspits and septic systems may be a significant contributor.
Genetic material from enteric viruses, which cause disease in humans but are only found in infected human feces and urine, also were commonly found throughout the sampled area, including ground water more than six miles offshore. The frequency of detecting viruses increased with rainfall in the summer months, when the viruses were most likely to be found in groundwater. Lipp cautioned, however, that the test used to identify the enteric viruses was not designed to determine whether the viruses were alive or dead.
“Until we actually know the level of risk, our findings are just an indication that there could be some level of sewage contamination offshore,” she said. “It doesn’t indicate that people need to change their behavior, but does show that the appropriate treatment of water through centralized sewage is needed.”
Bill Kruczynski, Florida Keys Program Scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the installation of new wastewater management systems such as centralized collection and advanced wastewater treatment facilities, as recommended by the Water Quality Protection Program (WQPP) for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and required by Florida State Law 99-395, is essential to restore and maintain water quality in the Florida Keys. In addition, the WQPP recommended improved storm water treatment practices to further reduce pollutant loading to nearshore waters.
“The Sanctuary and Monroe County are taking the right steps to improve water quality by enacting no dumping ordinances and implementing centralized sewage,” Lipp said. “The next step is to ensure that it’s working and hopefully document an improvement in water quality.”
The study was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Sam Fahmy | EurekAlert!
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences