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Seagulls Contaminate Beaches in Huron County, Ontario

Microbial source tracking helped Canadian town pinpoint the source of fecal contamination in their beaches.

Miami, FL, March 16, 2015 --( The Huron County Health Unit in Ontario, Canada has identified seagulls as the main contributor of fecal matter at Goderich’s beaches through a microbial source tracking study conducted last year.

Water quality at three Goderich beaches has been deteriorating and the concentration of E. coli has been increasing, which has resulted to beach closures. The Health Unit regularly monitors beach water quality but the method used only detects the presence of fecal bacteria and could not analyze the source of the contamination. The Health Unit had suspected birds as the most likely contributor and they had also observed the growing population of gull and Canada geese over the years. But they had no evidence to support their observations. They needed proof hence they turned to Source Molecular Corporation for microbial source tracking analysis.

Microbial source tracking involves extracting DNA from bacteria in a water sample and comparing it to DNA from possible hosts.

The Huron County Health Unit submitted six water samples taken in August 2014 from three Goderich beaches to Source Molecular’s laboratory. The Health Unit wanted Source Molecular to test the samples for the presence of six hosts -- gulls, geese, birds, cows, dogs and humans. Source Molecular reported that their tests showed gulls as major contributors to the fecal contamination in the Goderich beaches. The other five hosts were not identified as contributors but the Health Unit emphasized that they cannot be ruled out as possible contributors because only six water samples were tested. Other hosts not tested for, such as chickens or deer, may also contribute to the E. coli in the beach water.

According to Goderich Signal Star, results of the MST study were shared at a meeting with town councilors on March 9 by Erica Clark of the Huron County Health Unit. Based on the result, the town is now looking for ways to solve the problem taking into account the suggestions made by the Health Unit when dealing with seagulls. Councilors agreed that improving beach water quality is a priority to prevent closures that would negatively affect tourism in Goderich.
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Source Molecular Corporation
Mauricio Larenas
(786) 220-0379

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