Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lee H. Lee

Committee Member

Meiyin S. Wu

Committee Member

Ann Marie DiLorenzo


Bodies of water, particularly those used for drinking or recreation, are monitored for many different types of pollution. One type that causes especial concern is fecal contamination from humans and other mammals. Bodies of water affected by fecal contamination may harbor bacteria and viruses that can threaten human health. Identifying the source of such microbes is the first step towards eliminating the contamination, and making the body of water usable again. Fecal pollution is typically identified through the detection of indicator organisms, which are present in feces in large numbers. Examples of such organisms include total coliforms, and subsets of this group, fecal coliforms and Escherichia coli.

This thesis aimed to develop methodologies suitable for analysis of water bodies within the Passaic River Watershed. One objective was to compare three methods of detection and enumeration of these organisms: a modified version of the Total Coliform Membrane Filter Technique, IDEXX’s Colilert® System, and 3M™ Petrifilm™ E.coli/Coliform Count Plates. This was done through the analysis of environmental samples and through a serial dilution study. IDEXX’s Colilert® System, combined with a modified Total Coliform Membrane Filter Technique were determined to be a suitable method.

IDEXX’s Colilert® System was used to evaluate environmental samples from seven sites on the Passaic River and its tributaries. The levels of E. coli found were compared to New Jersey water quality standards, enforced by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. All sites were found fall within the allowable bacterial range except for one site on Goffle Brook, which tested above the allowable geometric mean.

This study also aimed to develop a microbial source tracking study methodology that could be used to determine the source of any fecal contamination found. This involved the use of previously published general primers, to detect fecal pollution, and species-specific primers, to identify the organism responsible. Some primer sets were found to be viable, while others require further methodology modification. A bioinformatics study was performed on the general primers, which were found to be suitable for this type of study, despite our difficulty with successfully identifying Bacteroides samples.

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