Relatively high E. coli
and Faecal Streptococci (FS) numbers have been reported in the waters surrounding Blakeney Point, East Anglia, UK, an area containing significant shellfishery industries including mussels and cockles, despite the implementation of development works aimed at reducing residual contamination problems. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential of using bacterial analyses and sterol profiling to assess the current levels and source of faecal pollution at Blakeney Point. No evidence of significant human faecal contamination of water in and around Blakeney Point could be found using either traditional microbiological analyses or sterol profile analysis. The presence of significant quantities of sitosterol, however, suggests that faecal contamination of water from birds does occur but at the concentration detected would not affect water quality. Analysis of cockles and mussels taken from the area show that negligible levels of coprostanol were present, confirming that faecal pollution was not causing any contamination issues. Apart from cholesterol, brassicasterol, an algal biomarker, as expected was dominant in shellfish flesh. The results confirm that current water treatment processes are successful in ensuring water quality at Blakeney Point and that a combination of microbial testing with sterol profile analysis confirmed that low microbial concentrations of faecal contaminants present in and around Blakeney Point most probably originate from migratory and/or resident bird species.
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