Assessment of Enterococcal Levels in Marine Bathing Water: Navigating Collaboration between Academia, Local Government, and Neighborhood Residents

Authors: Sarah Esenther*, Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Communication, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: water quality, citizen science, water resources,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 47
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

High frequencies of elevated enterococcus bacteria levels in the coastal Short Beach neighborhood of Branford, Connecticut have been a cause for concern and investigation among neighborhood residents, the East Shore District Health Department (ESDHD), and Yale University researchers for almost a decade. While previous partnerships between the ESDHD and Yale School of Public Health have led to novel approaches in evaluating causes of impaired water quality in the past, the projects have been infrequent, limited in scope to one semester course length, and involved little involvement from Short Beach residents. Simultaneously, efforts from the Civic Association of Short Beach have generated substantial understanding of local causes of the fecal contamination, but the organization has lacked the water quality testing capacity to assess the relative impacts of the contributing causes or the regulatory authority to require behavioral or infrastructure changes. A Citizen Science water sampling campaign, initiated by a student group mentored by a Yale professor and the director of the ESDHD, was organized to partner with neighborhood residents and collect short-duration flows from
outfalls in the neighborhood that the ESDHD had been unable to capture previously. This water sampling enhanced previously collected records of water contamination and demonstrated the feasibility of ongoing water collection by trained local volunteers. Reflections on the collaboration between the varied groups are given, along with a summary of recommendations for navigating future partnerships between diverse stakeholders.

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