Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 217, Issue 1–4, pp 135–147 | Cite as

Evaluation of First Flush for Indicator Bacteria and Total Suspended Solids in Urban Stormwater Runoff



An urban watershed in Raleigh, NC, was evaluated for Escherichia coli (E. coli), fecal coliform, enterococci, and total suspended solids (TSS) over 20 storm events. Sampling procedures allowed collection of multiple discrete samples per event, resulting in a relatively detailed description of microbe and TSS export for each storm. Data were evaluated to determine if a first flush effect was present for indicator bacteria and TSS in stormwater runoff. Analyses suggested there was a significant first flush effect for fecal coliform and TSS, although the first flush effect for fecal coliform was relatively weak. For E. coli and enterococci, no significant first flush effect was noted. Overall, the first flush effect was not always present for indicator bacteria and, if present, tended to be weak. The first flush effect for TSS was substantially stronger than that of any indicator bacteria. Further analysis showed poor correlation between first flush strength and antecedent climate variables, storm characteristics, and flow characteristics. However, seasonal differences for first flush strength were noted. Specifically, winter storms showed a stronger first flush effect for all indicator bacteria. The results of this study indicate that stormwater runoff presents a potential public health hazard due to elevated indicator bacteria levels for all portions of the storm event. Further, stormwater management practices cannot be expected to treat proportionally more indicator bacteria when sized for the water quality event. Instead, removal will simply be a function of a management practice’s volume capture and microbe sequestration efficiency.


Indicator bacteria E. coli enterococci Fecal coliform First flush Stormwater 



The authors would like to recognize the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources for funding this project. The authors also thank Dr. Otto Simmons for assistance with bacteria analysis protocols and Shawn Kennedy for his work installing monitoring equipment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological and Agricultural EngineeringNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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