Characterizing Sources of Fecal Pollution at Four Urban Public Beaches in the Halifax Regional Municipality
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Within the last few years several beaches in the Halifax Regional Municipality have closed frequently due to increased levels of E. coli within the beach waters. Enumeration, microbial enrichment, and genetic microbial source tracking methods were used to enumerate E. coli levels and detect the presence of select pathogens and host-specific fecal contamination markers within four local freshwater urban beaches. E. coli levels mostly remained below the maximum allowed concentration throughout the sampling season. Tested pathogen and fecal contamination markers displayed a low prevalence. E. coli levels were influenced by measured water quality parameters and were shown to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. However, E. coli were unable to predict the presence of enteric pathogens or fecal contamination markers. The beaches do not appear to be heavily contaminated and should generally be safe for public use. The use of E. coli as a fecal indicator needs to be further assessed in future studies.