Fecal contamination is a major concern for water quality management, since the fecal materials are associated with pathogens that can cause illness wherever water is used for recreational, drinking and aquaculture purposes. In order to monitor source(s) of fecal contamination in Oklahoma water systems, sterol profiles were previously examined in rural and urban samples collected from the Illinois River Basin and the Norman Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), respectively. Two distinctive, qualitatively and quantitatively, sterol fingerprints were recognized. Despite the effective removal of organic material by the Norman WWTP, human-derived sterol fingerprints, characterized by a predominance of fecal stanols such as coprostanol, were still significant in the output from the plant. The source of fecal material in the Illinois River samples (rural) was defined as being characteristic of corn-feed chicken manure originating from surrounding feedlots through the principal component analysis (PCA) of the sterol distributions and carbon compound specific isotope analysis of selected sterols (CSIA, δ13
C). Thiosteranes, formed during sludge treatments, were also shown to be useful tracers for monitoring sludge application in agriculture fields. The results obtained were used to provide water management authorities with qualitative insights into the source of fecal material inputs into the environment.
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