August 28, 2018

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Geosyntec Recently Presented on “Microbial Source Tracking” at the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) Annual Conference

Geosyntec recently presented on "Microbial Source Tracking" at the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) Annual Conference. The topic generated interesting discussions on how municipalities target illicit discharges to comply with their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit.

Erica Tillinghast, PE (GA), CPESC is a Project Engineer based in Kennesaw, Georgia with more than nine years of professional and research experience in water resources and environmental engineering specializing in green infrastructure (GI), low impact development (LID) design and hydraulic and hydrologic modeling. Ms. Tillinghast recently presented on Microbial Source Tracking (MST) at the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) Annual Conference in Savannah, Georgia.
Brandon Steets, PE (CA) is a Senior Principal water resources engineer based in California with more than 17 years of consulting experience. Mr. Steets is a nationally recognized subject matter expert on bacterial TMDL development, implementation, and modification, and MST. He has served as a Project Director for multiple MST projects across the country.
Ganesh Krishnan, PE (GA), D.WRE, CPESC is a Senior Principal water resources engineer based in Kennesaw, Georgia with more than 20 years of consulting experience in the Metro Atlanta area. Mr. Krishnan is a seasoned project manager who has managed multiple projects for municipal, federal, and private sector clients and serves as the Project Manager for an ongoing MST project in Georgia.

Presentation Topic

The presentation focused on the use of Microbial Source Tracking (MST) to target illicit discharges to comply with Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits; including an ongoing study for the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) where MST is being utilized to analyze the relationship between septic system density and fecal coliform impaired downstream waters.

Georgia's MS4 permits, issued by the GA EPD, require a rigorous Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) program to be implemented over the five-year permit term, including sanitary sewer infiltration controls to eliminate seepage and spillage from municipal sanitary sewers and septic systems as appropriate within the jurisdiction. Conventional parameters and dye testing are typically used to prioritize outfalls and locate illicit connections and leaks from sanitary sewers. However, concentrations of bacteria and nutrients (TMDL pollutants) at many MS4 outfalls sometimes remain elevated and it is unknown if human sewage sources remain or if non-sewage sources are contributing to the bacteria concentrations.

Using MST tools, including human DNA markers, present in sewage, MS4s can identify where further network investigations are needed to locate additional sources of bacteria and nutrients. Through a study design that includes wet and dry weather sampling across outfalls, sampling at selected outfalls, and sampling of sources including surface runoff, catch basin sediments, and known illicit discharges, MS4s can identify sources contributing the greatest load to outfalls. Using this information, MS4s are able to modify their IDDE program to more effectively and efficiently eliminate sewage sources, evaluate use of green infrastructure and other best management practices to achieve required TMDL pollutant load reductions, and by more directly targeting higher risk human waste sources, improve recreational water quality and public health protection.

More Information

Learn more about MST by watching this short video:
For additional information on the presentation, please contact Erica Tillinghast at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 678-202-9500
Learn more about Brandon Steets here:
Learn more about Ganesh Krishnan here:
Learn more about Geosyntec's other practice areas here: