Project Brief

Advances in molecular science have created faster methods of detecting fecal indicator bacteria. However, extensive testing, like the kind conducted in this study, is needed to ensure that these methods are as reliable and accurate as those they replace.

CICEET’s partnership with SCCWRP is only one example of how we seek to provide practical tools to address microbial contamination in coastal waters. CICEET is supporting the development of rapid detection techniques including molecular methods, a microarray-based approach, and a remotely-deployed autonomous analyzer.

When Timing is Everything
New study compares innovative methods of rapid bacterial indicator testing in support of same-day health risk warnings at public beaches in California.

Safe water for swimming is something every parent wants to be sure of before the family hits the beach. To know this, they rely on public health officials to provide accurate, up-to-date information on water quality. Gathering such information, however, depends on fecal indicator bacteria testing methods that can take days to show results. As a result, contaminated beaches often remain open when they should be closed, and clean beaches are often closed after the threat of contamination has been washed away.

To address this problem in California, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP), with support from CICEET, is conducting a demonstration and comparison of innovative rapid microbial testing methods from six research groups. The goal: identify which technologies measure bacteria levels quickly and accurately enough to make same-day health risk warnings possible.

In 2004, technology innovators applied new methods they had developed. Scientists from state microbiology laboratories—the professionals who would use these tools if approved for use by the State of California and the USEPA—then tested these technologies to determine if they would easily transfer for use in local laboratories that monitor recreational water quality.

Further testing in 2005 identified several genetic approaches that exhibit promising results. Some of these are quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) methods, and one uses Transcription-mediated Amplification (TMA). This year, a round of beta testing will confirm the accuracy of these results and the practicality of these approaches for use by local water quality laboratories. The Orange County Sanitation District and County of Orange Public Health Laboratories have agreed to participate in the study as beta testing facilities.

Learn More
John Griffith
SCCWRP Scientist
7171 Fenwick Lane
Westminster, CA 92683
T: 714.372.9228

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