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E. Coli Can Survive in Streambed Sediments for Months

Studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have confirmed that the presence of Escherichia coli pathogens in surface waters could result from the pathogen's ability to survive for months in underwater sediments. Most E. coli strains don't cause illness, but they are indicator organisms used by water quality managers to estimate fecal contamination.

These findings, which can help pinpoint potential sources of water contamination, support the USDA priorities of promoting sustainable agriculture and food safety.

Lab studies conducted by Pachepsky and his colleagues suggested that non-pathogenic strains of E. coli can survive much longer in underwater sediments than in the water column itself, and provided the first published evidence that E. coli can overwinter in the sediment.

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