Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study finds contaminated water reaching Florida’s offshore keys

A new University of Georgia study finds that sewage-contaminated groundwater is reaching the offshore reefs of the Upper Florida Keys, possibly threatening corals and human health.

“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!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>