Evaluation of microbiological water quality in the Pettaquamscutt River (Rhode Island, USA) using chemical, molecular and culture-dependent methods

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We evaluated microbiological water quality in the Pettaquamscutt River (Rhode Island, USA), an estuarine river. Fecal coliform (FC) and enterococci (FE) bacteria, presence of Bifidobacterium adolescentis DNA (indicating human fecal contamination), and optical brightener (OB) fluorescence (associated with laundry detergents) were determined for 14 stations from May to September 2010. Six stations had high counts of FE and FC, and the presence of B. adolescentis DNA and high OB fluorescence indicated human fecal contamination - four had septic systems as likely sources of contamination; the others were in sewered areas. The ability of FC and FE to indicate human fecal contamination was assessed against a positive B. adolescentis test. FC and FE had false positive rates of 25% and 17%, respectively, and false negatives of 44% for FC and 63% for FE. Inclusion of molecular and chemical indicators should improve tracking of human fecal contamination sources in the river. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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Marine Pollution Bulletin