Daniel Carter and Nick Hollingshead present at the TN AWRA symposium

Beginning in January 2009, Dr. Daniel Carter and Nick Hollingshead led a year long investigation of potential nonpoint sources of E. coli in the Sequatchie River watershed. This work was completed to support the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's efforts to monitor and reduce nonpoint sources of pollution in impaired waterbodies and waterways in the state. The Landscape Analysis worked directly with TDEC and the Southeast Tennessee Development District to determine potential sources of E. coli and developed a geographic information system to map and quantify these sources.

On Wednesday, April 14, Dr. Carter and Nick Hollingshead traveled to Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, TN to attend to the Annual Water Resources Symposium hosted by the Tennessee Chapter of the American Water Resources Association. Their presentation, titled "Nonpoint sources of E. coli in the Sequatchie River Watershed: Building a case study for clean water in a rural watershed", focused on the geospatial mapping methods and analyses of the research.

The main purpose of the presentation was to highlight how potential nonpoint sources of E. coli, such as failing septic systems and streams with livestock access, could be mapped using free imagery and data resources from local and state government. These data resources can be used to better target monitoring efforts by TDEC to understand the causes of elevated E. coli levels in the watershed. More precise information about the causes and sources of E. coli can also lead to proper mitigation efforts. Dr. Carter also showed how future rural development on the Cumberland Plateau surface could increase the likelihood of elevated E. coli levels in the waterways used by the communities of the Sequatchie River watershed. Currently, a number of large subdivisions have been planned on tracts located on the surface of the Cumberland Plateau in the headwaters of the Sequatchie River watershed. These large subdivisions are not located within the extent of current sewer utility services and may therefore greatly increase the septic systems into the watershed.

The geospatial datasets developed and other products have been given to TDEC and will be distributed to departments and organizations that can best use them to continue monitoring efforts and develop mechanisms for mitigation. Dr. Carter, Nick Hollingshead, and student researchers Dorsey Clark ('10) and Robert Osbourne ('10) are continuing their research efforts to understand the relationship between rural development and the potential increase in the number and extent of nonpoint sources of E. coli primarily due to an increased number of onsite waste management systems (septic systems).

Members of the research team also included Dr. Robin Gottfried and Andrew Carroll (University of Tennessee - Chattanooga) and a highly dedicated group of undergraduate research students: Karena Kwauk ('09), Angelica Tassoulas ('09), Robert Osbourne ('10), Matthew Valentine ('10), and Ashley van der Lande ('09). By receiving training and guidance at the Landscape Analysis Lab, this team of students was able to develop several novel geospatial datasets related to nonpoint sources of E. coli, such as the distribution of septic systems across the watershed, the extent of sewer and water services, extent of pasture land, and locations of large animal feed operations.