Year of Publication

2016

College

Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Wayne Sanderson, PhD, MS

Committee Member

David Mannino, MD

Committee Member

Nancy Johnson, DrPH, MSPH

Abstract

Background and Objectives

Early environmental regulations such as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, and the 1972 amendments—which would later become known as the Clean Water Act—have improved the quality of the drinking and recreational waters here in the United States. This has been achieved as a result of strict regulations on discharges, proper management strategies, as well as thorough sampling and testing for contaminants. One such contaminant is fecal waste; these materials are a public health concern because of the potential risk of gastrointestinal diseases. Scientists have used fecal coliforms as an indicator of the presence of these potential pathogens since the early 1900’s. It is especially important to sample for these in areas where straight pipes, faulty septic tanks, and inadequate management facilities are in use, as they are potential sources of contamination. The purpose of this study is to assess the fecal coliform levels prior to sewer construction improvements, and again after construction has been completed to determine if there has been a significant reduction in fecal coliforms in four streams located in West Virginia.

Methods

Fecal coliform data from four streams in West Virginia where sewage management upgrades were obtained: Boggs Run, Dunloup Creek, Soak Creek, and Warm Spring Run. Samples were collected upstream and downstream, before and after the upgrades were complete. The data were analyzed using log transformation, F-test, Student’s T-test, and Fisher’s exact test to determine which sites had significant reductions in fecal readings.

Results

Two downstream sites, Dunloup MP 11.9 and Warm Spring Run 5.8, had significant decreases in the geometric mean fecal coliform readings. All sites showed a reduction in the median, arithmetic, and geometric mean fecal readings after the sewage management projects were completed, though two of these findings were not significant.

Conclusion

The results of this study suggest updates to, or the replacement of, inadequate sewage management facilities, as well as the elimination of discharges are an effective way to reduce the amount of fecal contamination in streams and rivers. It is also important to consider the source of fecal contamination, environmental impacts, public health implications, when determining the best management practices for dealing with fecal impacts to surface waters.

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