Term of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health in Epidemiology (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Department

Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Environmental Health Sciences

Committee Chair

Asli Aslan

Committee Member 1

Haresh Rochani

Committee Member 2

Kelly Sullivan

Abstract

Exposure to waterborne pathogens in recreational waters is an underreported public health issue. The USEPA requires states to routinely monitor their recreational waters. Coastal Georgia has a unique environment with semi-diurnal tides that is challenged by sea-level rise, increased population, and impacting existing wastewater infrastructure. Routine beach monitoring is conducted weekly, which may not represent daily short-term variability in water quality impacted by tides, human activities, and the rapidly changing environment.

Two beaches on Tybee Island were observed during July and August 2021. Occurrence of Enterococci, P. aeruginosa, and environmental factors were evaluated in the beach water to understand short-term changes in water quality caused by human or wildlife presence and tides. Further, a relationship between Enterococci and P. aeruginosa was found to be strongest in tidal pools (r = 0.55, p < 0.0001). Found relationships with environmental factors included turbidity of water, water temperature, and human count for Enterococci and air temperature, water temperature, and pH of water for P. aeruginosa.

This study found a 50.7% higher average of Enterococci than reported numbers at the beach where human activity was the heaviest. The tidal pools had higher concentrations of Enterococci and P. aeruginosa (65.9% and 80.3%, respectively) than the water column itself.

Short-term variability should be considered to better protect human health at these recreational beaches. Tidal pools are a public health concern for this area as they promote bacteria to persist in stagnant, shallow water bodies where vulnerable populations, in particular, children have the most risk for exposure.

Research Data and Supplementary Material

No

Available for download on Tuesday, April 20, 2027

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