Human population growth, especially in coastal urban cities, increases the potential for fecal pollution of adjacent waterways, requiring continued advances in pollution monitoring and management. Infections remain the largest health risk from contact with fecal- and sewage-polluted waters, and a small number of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) are used as primary pollution assessment tools. While FIB continue to be useful tools, some of the assumptions about the behavior of FIB in the environment, and the associated pathways for pathogen exposure, have come into question. Research into the extra-enteric ecology of these indicators has identified management-relevant complexities including particle association, prolonged environmental persistence, and multidirectional microbial exchange among water, sediment, and air. These complexities provide opportunities for improving current monitoring and modeling strategies and to better understand exposure pathways for sewage-related infections.
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The authors would like to thank Ms. Anju Singh for her assistance in producing the conceptual figures for this review. Support for writing this review was partly provided by grants from Riverkeeper and the Hudson River Foundation.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Sediment and Other Pollutions
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O’Mullan, G.D., Elias Dueker, M. & Juhl, A.R. Challenges to Managing Microbial Fecal Pollution in Coastal Environments: Extra-Enteric Ecology and Microbial Exchange Among Water, Sediment, and Air. Curr Pollution Rep 3, 1–16 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40726-016-0047-z
- Fecal indicator bacteria
- Water quality
- Microbial exchange
- Sewage pollution