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Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL for Four Mile Run. Northern Virginia Regional Commission Don Waye June 14, 2001. Photo by Chuck Moore. Four Mile Run Watershed Characteristics. Size: 20 square miles Population: 183,000 (2000 Census) Population density: >9,000/sm

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fecal coliform bacteria tmdl for four mile run

Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL for Four Mile Run

Northern Virginia Regional Commission

Don Waye

June 14, 2001

Photo by Chuck Moore


Four Mile Run Watershed Characteristics

Size: 20 square miles

Population: 183,000 (2000 Census)

Population density: >9,000/sm

Land Use: 0% agriculture; 100% urban (from medium density residential to high density commercial, highways, roads, stream valley park system, 1 golf course); 35-40% impervious

graphic showing predominance of storm drains in the watershed
Graphic Showing Predominance of Storm Drains in the Watershed

There are over 10 linear miles of storm drains in every square mile across the Four Mile Run watershed


A TMDL is due May 1, 2002

(NVRC Contract with Virginia starts June 2001)

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Regulations:A TMDL or Total Maximum Daily Load is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant's sources.

Water quality standards are set by States, Territories, and Tribes. They identify the uses for each waterbody, for example, drinking water supply, contact recreation (swimming), and aquatic life support (fishing), and the scientific criteria to support that use. The Clean Water Act, section 303, establishes the water quality standards and TMDL programs.

tmdl rules old vs new
TMDL Rules: Old vs. New

Four Mile Run TMDL regulated by Old Rule

New rule becomes effective Oct. 1, 2001 (unless Congress changes things)

New rule requires Implementation Plans

Old rule does not, but…

Virginia requires IPs

An IP for Four Mile Run will follow TMDL

timeline for meeting cwa goal
Timeline for Meeting CWA Goal

1998-2000: DNA bacteria source investigation

1999-2001: Optical brightener monitoring

2001-2002: TMDL development

2002: Draft Implementation Plan

2003: Public review for IP

2003-2004: Final actions/adoptions by EPA, Virginia and local governments

~2008: Deadline for achieving CWA goals/ attaining w.q. standards

timeline for tmdl development
Timeline for TMDL Development

June 01: Begin contract; 1st public meeting

June-Dec 01: Storm drain regrowth research

June-Oct 01: TMDL model dvpt. & calibration

Nov 01: Determine & model allocation scenarios; 2nd public meeting

Dec 01: Draft outlines for implementation strategies, monitoring & evaluation plans

Jan 02: Present plans at 3rd public meeting

Feb 28, 02: DEQ submits draft TMDL to EPA

Mar 02: 30 day EPA Region 3 review period

Apr 02: Address EPA comments; Final TMDL due 5/1/02


Four Mile Run Bacteria

Perception v. Perspective

Source: Center for Watershed Protection

pictorial tour of bacteria
Pictorial Tour of Bacteria

Microbial puddles during drought of Summer 1999

Iron-fixing bacteria is orange


Mystery “clouds” of organic-rich proteins or lipids in the sewers downstream of Ballston Beaver Pond


two complementary efforts
Two Complementary Efforts

1. Optical Brightener Monitoring

involves cotton

and black light

2. DNA Source Tracking

involves animal scat and expensive lab gizmos

Photo by Don Waye

optical brightener monitoring

DNA Source Tracking

Optical Brightener Monitoring


  • high cost ($20,000-$150,000)
  • sample only
  • high tech
  • slow turn-around (6-18 months)
  • grab sample
  • not in “Standard Methods”
  • “Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE)”
  • low cost ($50-$20,000)
  • survey or spot-checks
  • low tech w/ high tech option
  • quick turn-around (1-3 days)
  • composite sample
  • not in “Standard Methods”
  • “Shimadzu scanning spectrofluorophotometer”
optical brightener monitoring1
Optical Brightener Monitoring
  • Cotton traps at outfalls pick up laundry brighteners & whiteners present in nearly all laundry detergents
  • A quick and cheap way to inventory a municipal separate storm sewer system* for certain types of illicit connections

Photo by Don Waye

Helpful for Phase 2 NPDES MS4* Communities

obm explained
OBM Explained

Dyes known as optical brighteners are added to all commercial laundry detergents (whitens & brightens without bleach)

These dyes do not occur in nature, are unique to laundry detergents, and degrade slowly in the environment

They glow under common black light (fluoresce when exposed to UV light)

Look for elevated concentrations in outfall traps

It is not the brighteners that are a problem; they are merely the means to detect sewage connections.

obm results
OBM Results

Most had no detectable optical brighteners

9-25 outfalls (out of 297) may have a problem; follow-up is pending

One illicit connection was confirmed with this technique

a hotel had two industrial-sized washing machines tied to the storm sewer system

bacteria source identification using dna fingerprinting
Bacteria Source Identification Using DNA Fingerprinting

Dr. George Simmons pioneered this technique with work in Virginia’s Eastern Shore

E. coli-specific testing

PFGE DNA profiling (like barcoding)

Photo by Don Waye

urban wildlife in four mile run
Urban Wildlife in Four Mile Run
  • humans *
  • dogs *
  • cats *
  • raccoons *
  • Canada Geese *
  • Mallard Ducks *
  • other ducks
  • pigeons
  • seagulls *
  • gray squirrels *
  • opossum *

rats *







flying squirrels *

foxes *



Project-specific DNA scat library included 54 samples representing 12 species*


Rogues Gallery of Bacteria Sources

DogsAt ~800 per square mile, dogs contribute over 5000 pounds of pet droppings each day to the 20 square mile Four Mile Run watershed.

CatsIn several comparable MST studies of urban/suburban stream systems, cats have been implicated in roughly the same degree as dogs.

Canada GeesePopulations of the non-migratory race of this large waterfowl have exploded in recent years.


Rogues Gallery (cont.)


Although the watershed has a separate sewer system, illicit discharges are discovered from time to time. (Homeless population adds a wildcard factor)

Sanitary sewer interflow?


Population densities of this adaptive nocturnal mammal are an order of magnitude greater in urban settings than in the wild. They are known to use storm drain networks as their own "Intelligent Transportation System" to move from greenspace to greenspace.


Success of Isolate Matching

N = 639

Success of Isolate Matching, Pie



Storm drains and sediments (& scour pools?) seem to promote regrowth of bacteria

Lack of matches with species absent in watershed fosters confidence in technique

DNA work confirms low microbial biodiversity (large population of E. coli clones)

Waterfowl, humans, raccoons and dogs seem to be leading sources

why suggest regrowth
Why Suggest Regrowth?

Doctor’s Run

  • Occum’s Razor—the simplest answer that fits the data
  • Highest bacteria counts from storm drain outfalls and sediments
  • Need more comparative data on bacteria strain variability (e.g., paired watershed study)
tmdl model choice
TMDL Model Choice?









For more information, visitwww.novaregion.org/4MileRun/tmdlDEQ contact:Joan Crowther (703) 583-3828NVRC contact:Don Waye (703) 642-4628


Ways to Kill or Reduce Bacteria

Restore conditions to encourage bacteria predation from other microbes like paramecium and rotifers

Go after the sources (e.g., “GeesePeace”-type solutions for waterfowl droppings, control pet waste, block raccoon ledges in storm drains)

UV light exposure (natural or artificial)

Theoretical Ways;

Not Recommended





Recommended Approach

Short term:

  • Track down illicit connections with Optical Brightener Monitoring and other tools
  • Enforce pooper scooper laws
  • Clean out catchbasins


Investigate benefits of high efficiency street sweeping

Investigate associations with scour pools and sunlight exposure (continue research)


Recommended Approach*


  • Restore conditions to encourage bacteria predation from other microbes like paramecium and rotifers
  • go after animal sources of bacteria
  • dissuade raccoons from using storm drains as toilets (e.g., remove ledges)
  • oral contraceptives for raccoons (being developed to fight spread of rabies) ?!
  • promote storm drain daylighting (very long term!)


*For discussion purposes


Storm Drain Marking …Then & Now

Coming Summer 2001…

  • NVRC & the 4 watershed localities to design custom markers for Four Mile Run & order bulk quantities
  • Colorful, attractive, durable, affordable
  • Volunteers needed!

NVRC's first water quality project in the Four Mile Run watershed was born on Earth Day 1990, when it made stencils and paint available to volunteers.

It was the first storm drain stencilling program in Virginia.



Approved new Water Quality Master Plan

Consolidated environmental functions into 1 division with new staff (e.g, Bill Skrabak & Bill Hicks)

Alexandria’s Parks Commissioner, Judy Noritake, worked with Congressman Moran to secure $1M from EPA to investigate how to make the Four Mile Run flood control channel more environmentally friendly and aesthetically inviting

Gold Award winner in Va’s Chesapeake Bay Community Partner program

Award-winning “Targets of Opportunities” program. (e.g., Highpointe at Stonebridge has 3 innovative BMPs (sand filter, stormceptor, & bioretention)


Falls Church

New city-wide water quality study

Woodward-Clyde study in the mid-1990s

Urban Forest demo project in Four Mile Run/East Falls Church Park

Ches. Bay Preservation Ordinance


Fairfax County

Most comprehensive long-term chemical monitoring of streams statewide (FCHD)

Recently completed IBI-based county-wide Stream Protection Survey (available off County website)

New stream protection efforts, including use of OBM

High marks for responsiveness to active citizenry

Cooperating with Accotink Creek bacteria studies and TMDL

Restructured DPWES with new highly qualified staff to protect water quality

Acronym soup: NVSWCD & EQAC



Recently strengthened its Ches. Bay Protection Ordinance

Newly approved Watershed Management Plan, web-downloadable (Jason Papacosma)

Will share $1M EPA grant for Four Mile Run with Alexandria

Over $750K for new environmental initiatives including:

1st-ever catchbasin cleaning

More & better street sweeping

New hires, including new E&S inspector for better enforcement



Over $750K for new environmental initiatives (cont.):

Inspection of the County's 360-mile (!) storm sewer network to identify problems such as clogged inlets, collapsed pipes, leaking joints and prohibited connections

Stormwater utility study

Watershed outreach activities (Aileen Winquist)

New volunteer stream-monitoring program

A “quantum leap forward”-Jay Fissette, Arlington Board Chair