Artificial oyster reefs as a water quality remediation tool in a contaminated estuary
Crews, Mary Katherine
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Human sewage contamination from faulty septic tanks in coastal environments poses a major risk to public health. Field and controlled laboratory studies were conducted to assess the effectiveness of using the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, in an artificial oyster reef as a water quality mitigation tool. Three sites in coastal Georgia were monitored over two years for fecal indicator organisms and enteric pathogens. The site impacted by the highest density of nearby septic systems had significant (p < 0.05) levels of fecal coliform bacteria, enterococci, and coliphage, in both water and oyster samples and was 85.7% positive for Salmonella (6/7 samples) and 20% positive for enterovirus (1/5 samples) in water samples. Controlled laboratory studies revealed that oysters can quickly reduce the amount of fecal bacteria from water but may reintroduce the contaminant as feces/pseudofeces. Artificial oyster reefs were useful as a sampling medium, but their effectiveness for water quality mitigation were not conclusive.