Field Evaluation of Indicator Bacteria Removal by Stormwater BMPs in North Carolina
World Environmental and Water Resources Congress , 2009

Hathaway, J.M., Hunt, W.F., Wright, J.D., Jadlocki, S.J.

In the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s National Water Quality Inventory in 2000, 13% of the river and stream miles that were surveyed were impaired by pathogen indicator bacteria (USEPA 2002). Stormwater runoff is a transport mechanism for indicator bacteria to receiving waters, resulting in an increased risk to public health through consumption of contaminated shellfish or ingestion by swimmers. Urban stormwater is commonly treated by stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs), each of which provides some combination of natural treatment mechanisms and fosters certain environmental conditions. Although BMPs have been studied in detail for many pollutants, little peer-reviewed literature is available which documents their ability to remove or inactivate indicator bacteria. The North Carolina State University Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering evaluated 10 stormwater BMPs in Charlotte and Wilmington, NC, to evaluate their efficiency with respect to indicator bacteria removal. The study practices included two bioretention cells, four stormwater wetlands, two wet ponds, and two dry detention areas. Data collected from these studies indicates that positive removal of indicator bacteria is possible in many types of BMPs; however, removal can be highly variable from practice to practice. Further, stormwater BMPs may foster environments where indicator bacteria can persist, becoming sources of indicator bacteria. Finally, even if positive reductions in indicator bacteria are noted, research indicates that achieving effluent concentrations of indicator bacteria consistent with USEPA standards may be difficult with many types of BMPs.