“Who Done it”? Environmental DNA (eDNA) for Determining Fecal Contamination Source

Science Center Objects

By Kay Briggs and Vivian Nolan

Many surface waters and groundwaters in the eastern region of the United States are contaminated with fecal pollution resulting in adverse effects including degradation of water quality, increased health risks, and changes in aquatic ecosystem dynamics. This is particularly true in karstic areas where underground conduits may funnel contaminants from distant and less obvious sources. The Elks Run watershed, like many other rural areas, has experienced recent development, and serves as the only municipal water supply for the residents. The USGS, a leader in developing and applying advanced assays for the determination of contamination source not widely available to local, State, and nongovernmental organizations, conducted a study using modern molecular analysis methods – eDNA – to identify the source of fecal contamination in that area. Identifying the source of fecal contamination (human or animal) is important so that limited mitigation resources can be used most effectively.

More information → https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2019/1064/ofr20191064.pdf.

 

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