Impact of Microbial-Particle Interaction on Microbial Fate and Transport in Stormwater

(This project was the focus of Mackenzie ("Kizzy") Dilts' masters research, click here for an abstract of the resulting paper in Water Research)

Project Summary
The degree to which microbes in the water column associate with settleable particles has important implications for microbial transport in receiving waters, as well as for microbial removal via sedimentation (i.e. detention basins).  The partitioning behavior of several bacterial, protozoan and viral indicator organisms is explored in three urban streams under both storm and dry weather conditions.  The fraction of organisms associated with settleable particles in stormwater is estimated through use of a centrifugation technique which is calibrated using suspensions of standard particles (e.g., glass, latex).

The fraction of organisms associated with settleable particles varies by type of microbe, and the partitioning behavior of each organism generally changes between dry weather and storm conditions.  Bacterial indicator organisms  (fecal coliforms, E. coli, enterococci) exhibited relatively consistent behavior, with an average of 20% to 35% of organisms associated with these particles in background samples and 30% to 55% in storm samples.  Cl. perfringens spores exhibited the highest average level of particle association, with storm values varying from 50% to 70%.  Results related to total coliphage partitioning were more variable, with 20% to 60% associated with particles during storms.  These estimates should be valuable in surface water quality modeling efforts, many of which currently assume that all microbes exist as free (unattached) organisms.