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Impact of Roadway Stormwater Runoff on Microbial Contamination in the Receiving Stream

Wyckoff, Kristen N., Chen, Si, Steinman, Andrew J., He, Qiang
Journal of environmental quality 2017 v.46 no.5 pp. 1065-1071
coliform bacteria, fecal bacteria, high-throughput nucleotide sequencing, microbial communities, microbial contamination, microbiological quality, pollutants, pollution control, ribosomal RNA, roads, storms, stormwater, stormwater management, streams, water pollution, watersheds
Stormwater runoff from roadways has increasingly become a regulatory concern for water pollution control. Recent work has suggested roadway stormwater runoff as a potential source of microbial pollutants. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of roadway runoff on the microbiological quality of receiving streams. Microbiological quality of roadway stormwater runoff and the receiving stream was monitored during storm events with both cultivation-dependent fecal bacteria enumeration and cultivation-independent high-throughput sequencing techniques. Enumeration of total coliforms as a measure of fecal microbial pollution found consistently lower total coliform counts in roadway runoff than those in the stream water, suggesting that roadway runoff was not a major contributor of microbial pollutants to the receiving stream. Further characterization of the microbial community in the stormwater samples by 16S ribosomal RNA gene-based high-throughput amplicon sequencing revealed significant differences in the microbial composition of stormwater runoff from the roadways and the receiving stream. The differences in microbial composition between the roadway runoff and stream water demonstrate that roadway runoff did not appear to have a major influence on the stream in terms of microbiological quality. Thus, results from both fecal bacteria enumeration and high-throughput amplicon sequencing techniques were consistent that roadway stormwater runoff was not the primary contributor of microbial loading to the stream. Further studies of additional watersheds with distinct characteristics are needed to validate these findings. Understanding gained in this study could support the development of more effective strategies for stormwater management in sensitive watersheds.