Escherichia coli and Enterococci Attachment to Particles in Runoff from Highly and Sparsely Vegetated Grassland
Water, Air, and Soil Pollution , 2010

Soupir, M.L., Mostaghimi, S.

Limited data on microbial partitioning between the freely suspended and particulate attached phases during transport along overland flow pathways have resulted in high uncertainty in bacterial fate and transport models and the application of these models to watershed management plans. The objectives of this study were to examine differences in attachment between E. coli and enterococci in runoff from plots with highly and sparsely vegetated grassland; investigate relations between flow regime, total suspended solids, and E. coli and enterococci attachment; and identify the particle size categories to which the attached cells were associated. Two rainfall simulations were conducted on large field plots 3 m wide by 18.3 m long with highly and both highly and sparsely vegetated covers and treated with standard cowpats. Results from the first experiment representing pasture with highly vegetated cover indicate that the majority of E. coli and enterococci are transported from the fresh manure source in the unattached state with only 4.8% of E. coli and 13% of enterococci associated with particles. The second experiment which compared partitioning in runoff from both highly and sparsely vegetated covers found lower bacterial attachment rates: the average E. coli percent attached was 0.06% from plots with highly vegetated cover and 2.8% from plots with sparsely vegetated cover while the corresponding values for enterococci were 0.98% and 1.23%, respectively. The findings from this study provide the first set of data on bacterial partitioning in overland flow from large field plots, and results may be helpful for parameterizing water quality models and designing conservation practices.