Macatawa Watershed Project: Fecal Contamination and Microbial Source Tracking

Student Author(s)

Cameron Pratt
Stephen Skilling

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Michael Pikaart

Document Type


Event Date



In Ottawa County, sewage waste pipes are separated from the groundwater pipes. The runoff from these groundwater pipes travels to Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. In recent years, bacterial contamination has been detected in Lake Macatawa and the surrounding watershed area. This poses a danger to people, as they can be infected by these pathogens that make it to the swimming areas. The contamination may be caused by a few factors, such as sewage seepage into the groundwater pipes or fecal matter from agricultural farms. This project relies on water and soil samples from various locations in the watershed for bacterial testing. Bacterial cell concentrations were found by using Idexx trays and mTEC agar plates. E. coli cells were characterized using quantitative PCR. Both human-based and cow-based E. coli have been detected in high amounts using qPCR. Collected soil cores show high concentrations of coliform when water was passed through them, but there were low counts when the soil itself was tested. In agricultural soils, the opposite was true for E. coli, which is indicative of E. coli’s adhesive nature.


This research was supported by the Outdoor Discovery Center and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council.

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