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Leaching of Escherichia coli from sheep faeces during simulated rainfall events

Abstract

Sheep faeces are known to harbour to a high concentration of microbial indicators and pathogens. These can be released under rainfall and may result in contamination of waterways, potentially leading to illnesses in humans. A study was designed to determine the concentration of Escherichia coli released from fresh and aged (0–21 days old) ovine faeces. In summer and autumn, ovine faeces were subjected to simulated rainfall and the resultant run‐off collected. Escherichia coli were enumerated in both the run‐off and the faeces. In autumn total suspended solids (TSS) and turbidity were also monitored in the run‐off. This study provides quantitative evidence that E. coli in aged sheep faeces is mobilized by rainfall events. Simulated rainfall events released between 103 and 104 CFU E. coli ml−1 throughout the 21 days. TSS or turbidity with fresh faeces may be indicative of microbial contamination, but from aged faeces, this may not be the case.

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