Partitioning of antibiotic resistance genes and fecal indicators varies intra and inter-storm during combined sewer overflows

Alessia Eramo, Hannah Delos Reyes, Nicole L. Fahrenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) degrade water quality through the release of microbial contaminants in CSO effluent. Improved understanding of the partitioning of microbial contaminants onto settleable particles can provide insight into their fate in end-of-pipe treatment systems or following release during CSO events. Sampling was performed across the hydrograph for three storm events as well as during baseflow and wet weather in three surface waters impacted by CSO. qPCR was performed for select antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) and a marker gene for human fecal indicator organisms (BacHum) in samples processed the partitioning of microbial contaminants on settleable particles versus suspended in the aqueous phase. Amplicon sequencing was performed on both fractions of storm samples to further define the timing and partitioning of microbial contaminants released during CSO events. Samples collected at the CSO outfall exhibited microbial community signatures of wastewater at select time points early or late in the storm events. CSOs were found to be a source of ARG. In surrounding surface waters, sul1 was higher in samples from select locations during wet weather compared to baseflow. Otherwise, ARG concentrations were variable with no differences between baseflow and wet weather conditions. The majority of ARG at the CSO outfall were observed on the attached fraction of samples: 64-79% of sul1 and 59-88% of tet(G). However, the timing of peak ARG and human fecal indicator marker gene BacHum did not necessarily coincide with observation of the microbial signature of wastewater in CSO effluent. Therefore, unit processes that remove settleable particles (e.g., hydrodynamic separators) operated throughout a CSO event would achieve up to (0.5-0.9)-log removal of ARG and fecal indicators by removing the attached fraction of measured genes. Secondary treatment would be required if greater removal of these targets is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 20 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


  • ARG
  • Amplicon sequencing
  • CSO
  • Hydrodynamic separation
  • Settleable particles
  • Stormwater
  • Wastewater biomarker

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