Microbial Source Tracking in the Lower Passaic River Basin Study Area, New Jersey

Science Center Objects

The USGS NJWSC is collaborating with the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) on an Urban Waters Federal Partnership project in the Lower Passaic River basin to investigate the occurrence and potential sources of E. coli fecal indicator bacteria. 

Map of Urbanized area around the Second and Third Rivers

Second and Third River basins and surface water stations stuy area map

(Public domain.)

The USGS New Jersey Water Science Center is partnering with the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) on an Urban Waters Federal Partnership project in the Lower Passaic Study area.  The objective of the project is to investigate the occurrence and potential sources of E. coli fecal indicator bacteria in the urbanized Second River and Third River tributaries to the Passaic River. The tributaries do not have any permitted point source discharges, however high levels of microbial contamination have been found in the waterbodies. This project supports efforts by PVSC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other partners to identify potential sources of pathogens and remediate sources of microbial contamination in the Second River and Third River basins. The project will provide further information on the spatial and temporal distribution of bacterial contamination and potential pathogen sources.

Samples will be collected from eight stream sites; four sites on the Second River and four sites on the Third River at baseflow and runoff conditions during 10 sampling events. Measurements of water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity will be collected in the field. Water samples will be analyzed for E. coli, caffeine, and specific biomarkers (human, dog , bird and deer). Data from this project will be used to evaluate the impacts of nonpoint source runoff on instream pathogens.

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For information about other USGS Urban Waters Federal Partnership Cooperative Matching Funds projects please visit

Urban Waters Federal Partnership Cooperative Matching Funds Projects  

For more information on studies in the lower Passaic River basin, please visit

The EPA Urban Waters Lower Passaic Urban Waters Partnership

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USGS Research Team:

Pam Reilly (Project Chief)

Emily Wengrowski