for a method that combines some type of cultivation with quantitative PCR techniques in real time to address viability. The use of molecular tools that can be used to inform decisions for water treatment and public-health protection will still require substantial investment in sample concentration, hazard characterization, quantification, and assessment of viability.
Example of Using Emerging Science to Address Regulatory Issues and Support Decision-Making: Beach Safety
Shorelines provide benefits to society as a whole and in particular are directly associated with tourism, which remains one of the largest economic sectors around the world. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC 2011), beaches in the United States were given advisories or were closed 24,091 times in 2010—the second-highest number of advisories and closures in the 21 years since NRDC began reporting. It was suggested that aging and poorly designed sewage-treatment systems and contaminated stormwater were the main causes of pollution that led to fecal—indicator concentrations that exceeded the state’s health and safety standards. There were also more than 9,000 days of Gulf Coast beach notices, advisories, and closures due to the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster in 2010 (NRDC 2011).
As part of an overhaul of the Clean Water Act, the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act mandated that research be undertaken to understand coastal pollution, address polluted sediments, decrease response time, and improve protection of public health (EPA 2006a); most of the research programs under this act have yet to be realized, and improving public-health protection has been slow. EPA has begun to update water-quality standards, address health studies and swimmer surveys, and advance the use of new genomic technology for the rapid testing of water quality. The development of the first standardized quantitative PCR method for enterococci is being promoted for recreational-water assessment (Wade et al. 2006). Evaluations based on new quantitative PCR methods for indicators in ambient and recreational waters are being published (Byappanahalli et al. 2010; Noble et al. 2010), but there are challenges to using these methods for regulatory purposes because interpretation of the signals may underestimate or overestimate human health risks and could lead to beach closures that cause unnecessary economic losses (Srinivasan et al. 2011). Continued investment in new methods, applications for surveys, and links to health effects and management strategies are necessary.
Wastewater and stormwater are key culprits in water pollution, and further improvement of water safety cannot occur unless point and nonpoint sources of pollution are elucidated. Research on microbial source tracking has advanced the use of molecular tools for investigating the presence of pathogens in impaired waters and to setting total maximum daily load requirements. EPA is taking a leadership role in the microbial source-tracking research (EPA 2005). In addition, California has organized one of the largest blind studies, the Global