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Occurrence of bacteria in Blue Marsh Lake and selected tributaries, Berks County, Pennsylvania: September-October 2001

May 1, 2002

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has water-quality standards that limit the number of specific bacteria in water that is considered safe for recreational use. Bacteria such as fecal streptococci, fecal coliforms, and Escherichia coli (E. coli) are used to assess recreational water quality because they usually live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. Fecal indicator bacteria commonly are associated with waterborne disease-causing organisms (pathogens). These indicator bacteria are used routinely as a measure of the quality of water for recreational activities such as swimming, boating, and water skiing. If the indicator bacteria are present, effective measures could be taken to prevent the transmission or epidemic outbreak of waterborne diseases as a result of contamination of these waters from human or animal waste.

Blue Marsh Lake is on Tulpehocken Creek in Berks County, Pa., and drains a largely agricultural basin. Land use in the basin is approximately 60 percent cropland, and 85 percent of the farms are livestock and poultry farms.

The potential sources of fecal bacteria are:

    • geese that inhabit the recreational areas of the lake,
    • humans that visit the Dry Brooks Day Use Area (swimming area), and
    • farm animals, wastewater facilities, and household septic systems in the basin (bacteria from these sources could enter the lake through tributaries).

To meet the recreational water-quality standard, lake water may not have more than 200 colony-forming units (CFU) of fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters (mL). During the week of July 23, 2001, data collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at the swimming area at Blue Marsh Lake showed concentrations of fecal coliforms in the water exceeding the standard. To determine the extent of elevated concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria, further study of the lake and selected tributaries was needed.

Publication Year 2002
Title Occurrence of bacteria in Blue Marsh Lake and selected tributaries, Berks County, Pennsylvania: September-October 2001
DOI 10.3133/fs03602
Authors Michele L. Zimmerman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 036-02
Index ID fs03602
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center