The seasonal variations and patterns of Escherichia coli in Wisconsin's coastal waters have been closely studied in recent years due to increased beach monitoring activities. Patterns of distribution of the indicator organism, E. coli, in the sand at these beaches are now being investigated as a source of E. coli to adjacent beach water. This project investigates the concentrations of E. coli in beach sand, and the relationship between these sand-microbe concentrations and concentrations of microbes in the corresponding beach water. Weekly sampling of upshore, swash, and submerged sand at six beaches provided numbers of the indicator bacteria in each beach's sand substrate for two consecutive summers. Overall concentrations of E. coli were highest in the swash sand of the beach, with the highest numbers seen in the summer months and lowest numbers in the winter months. Each location had very different concentrations of E. coli in the beach sand from 1,800 CFU/100 g to 21,670 CFU/100 g sand. Each location had a very different relationship between the indicator organism found in the beach sand and that found in the beach water. These data suggest that sand may be a reservoir for E. coli at some locations, and another source of contamination that should be considered in beach monitoring programs. However, elevated levels of E. coli in beach sand were not universal and varied greatly from location to location.
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Vol. 34 • No. 3