Water Quality Study Uses DNA Fingerprinting to Determine Source of Fecal Coliforms

Coliforms from Animal Sources Many Times Greater Than Those from Humans

For years, people have been concerned about pollution in New Bedford (Mass.) Harbor, with a "red flag" raised over what human beings and water treatment plants might be dumping into the bay.

A recently completed study of water quality in New Bedford Harbor, commissioned by the New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council and conducted by Applied Science Associates, took a new approach to evaluate sources contributing pollution to the harbor.

The study combined a field sampling program and computer modeling with DNA fingerprinting analysis to identify and quantify sources contributing fecal coliform to the waters of Outer New Bedford Harbor.

The results of the computer modeling, combined with the DNA analysis, indicated that humans accounted for only a small fraction (about 7 to 15 percent) of the analyzed samples of fecal coliform entering the harbor. DNA analysis revealed birrds to be the dominant source of fecal coliform in the harbor, with rodents and raccoons also significant contributors.

Applied Science Associates, Inc.

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