Assessing risk of E. coli resuspension from intertidal estuarine sediments: implications for water quality

Adam James Wyness, David Maxwell Paterson, James Rimmer, Emma Clare Defew, Marc I Stuttter, Lisa M Avery

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Estuarine sediments are a reservoir for faecal bacteria, such as E. coli, where they reside at greater concentrations and for longer periods than in the overlying water. Faecal bacteria in sediments do not usually pose significant risk to human health until resuspended into the water column, where transmission routes to humans are facilitated. The erosion resistance and corresponding E. coli loading of intertidal estuarine sediments was monitored in two Scottish estuaries to identify sediments that posed a risk of resuspending large amounts of E. coli. In addition, models were constructed in an attempt to identify sediment characteristics leading to higher erosion resistance. Sediments that exhibited low erosion resistance and a high E. coli loading occurred in the upper- and mid-reaches of the estuaries where sediments had higher organic content and smaller particle sizes, and arose predominantly during winter and autumn, with some incidences during summer. Models using sediment characteristics explained 57.2% and 35.7% of sediment shear strength and surface stability variance respectively, with organic matter content and season being important factors for both. However large proportions of the variance remained unexplained. Sediments that posed a risk of resuspending high amounts of faecal bacteria could be characterised by season and sediment type, and this should be considered in the future modelling of bathing water quality.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3255
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2019


  • Estuarine sediment
  • Intertidal
  • Cohesive sediment
  • Sediment stability
  • Erosion
  • Faecal contamination
  • E. coli
  • Faecal indicator organism (FIO)
  • Bathing waters
  • Water quality


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