Quantifying microbial contamination in urban stormwater runoff

Swimming in urban surface waters is still an exception in European cities. At the same time there are numerous initiatives trying to achieve a quality of urban surface waters that allows recreational activities including swimming. In order to manage bathing waters properly the EU Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) demands the elaboration of bathing water profiles in which sources of pollution have to be assessed. In order to investigate the relevance of stormwater as a source of microbial contamination as well as the influence of catchment characteristics on the faecal loading, E.Coli, intestinal Enterococci and colony counts have been measured in event related stormwater samples of three different catchment areas in Berlin. The catchment areas were chosen to be as homogeneous as possible representing catchments of old housing buildings (OLD), new housing buildings (NEW), and commercial areas (COM). N-Formylaminoantipyrine (FAA) was measured as a tracer for raw wastewater. Results showed elevated concentrations (1-2 log units) of faecal indicator organisms (FIO) in catchment OLD (104-105 in comparison to 103 cfu/100mL) suggesting illicit connections of wastewater discharges to rainwater drains, which is supported by elevated concentrations of FAA in the same catchment type. This underlines the relevance of these illicit connections as a source of hygienic contamination, which has to be considered when planning urban bathing water activities.

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