Conservation Matters March 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Conference highlights bacterial source tracking practices, advances, improvements

Water Quality LaboratoryNearly 120 participants from 13 states participated in the 2012 Bacterial Source Tracking – State of the Science Conference February 28-29 to hear discussions on bacterial source tracking (BST) and current practices, scientific advances and improvements in application.

The conference, held at the T Bar M Resort and Conference Center in New Braunfels, was coordinated by the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) and funded by a state general revenue nonpoint source grant from Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB). Presenters highlighted BST uses in the existing regulatory framework and applications in food safety, provided an overview of BST case studies nationwide and updated participants on the TexasE. coliBST Library.

"Nonpoint sources of pollution greatly affect water quality, with bacteria being a serious concern," said Dr. Kevin Wagner, an associate director of the institute. "Identifying and assessing sources of fecal pollution are vital to effectively implementing strategies to address these water quality concerns, and bacterial source tracking has been demonstrated to provide an effective tool for identifying sources of bacterial pollution."

Dr. George Di Giovanni, professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, served as the conference chair. Di Giovanni is also the primary developer of the most comprehensive E. coli culture collection and BST library in the state.

"The science of BST continues to evolve," said Di Giovanni. "The conference provided a valuable opportunity to share developments in BST technology and present case studies from Texas and beyond."

Attendees included federal, state and regional agency personnel; elected officials; academia and students; and others interested in the applicability of BST. In addition, seven posters were presented displaying a variety of BST research projects.

One researcher noted that if the national parks were subject to the Clean Water Act, most of their waters would be considered impaired, raising some good questions regarding the need to reexamine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality standards for bacterial impairments.

Conference speakers not only included experts from Texas, but also speakers from EPA's Office of Research and Development, Virginia Tech, The University of Minnesota, Battelle Memorial Institute, University of South Florida and James Madison University.

The BST conference was hosted by TWRI, TSSWCB, The University of Texas School of Public Health-El Paso Regional Campus and Texas AgriLife Research.

Visit the conference website for follow up information including presentations, videos, and poster abstracts: texasbst.tamu.edu/2012-conference.

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