The concurrence of human sewage contamination in urban stormwater runoff (n=23) from six urban catchments across Australia was assessed by using both microbial source tracking (MST) and chemical source tracking (CST) markers. Out of 23 stormwater samples human adenovirus (HAv), human polyomavirus (HPv) and the sewage-associated markers; Methanobrevibacter smithii nifH and Bacteroides HF183 were detected in 91%, 56%, 43% and 96% of samples, respectively. Similarly, CST markers paracetamol (87%), salicylic acid (78%) acesulfame (96%) and caffeine (91%) were frequently detected. Twenty one samples (91%) were positive for six to eight sewage related MST and CST markers and remaining two samples were positive for five and four markers, respectively. A very good consensus (>91%) observed between the concurrence of the HF183, HAv, acesulfame and caffeine suggests good predictability of the presence of HAv in samples positive for one of the three markers. High prevalence of HAv (91%) also suggests that other enteric viruses may also be present in the stormwater samples which may pose significant health risks. This study underscores the benefits of employing a set of MST and CST markers which could include monitoring for HF183, adenovirus, caffeine and paracetamol to accurately detect human sewage contamination along with credible information on the presence of human enteric viruses, which could be used for more reliable public health risk assessments. Based on the results obtained in this study, it is recommended that some degree of treatment of captured stormwater would be required if it were to be used for non-potable purposes.

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Last updated: 17th Jun 2016