Influence of Coastal Processes On High Fecal Coliform Counts in the Mississippi Sound

Document Type


Publication Date



Geography and Geology


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Microbial source tracking efforts have historically focused on the input of fecal bacteria from sources such as storm drains, sewers, and runoff. Fecal coliform levels in the Mississippi Sound have been analyzed and compared with physical factors in an attempt to characterize possible nonpoint sources of pollution. Results from this study show that a primary factor in elevated levels of fecal coliform is a change in wind direction. The passage of warm and cold fronts through the northern Gulf of Mexico causes numerous 90 degrees-180 degrees shifts in wind directions over a period of 6-8 days. Commonly, a rise in fecal coliform counts is observed at coastal monitoring stations after an abrupt shift in wind direction and wind speed. When these trends of increased fecal coliform levels occur before rainfall, it is inferred that the sediment could be a source of the fecal coliform observed in the water column. The changes in wind direction and velocity might induce more energetic conditions at the shoreline (e.g., increased wave heights and increased longshore current velocities). Fecal coliform counts collected from five monitoring stations along the Harrison County, Mississippi, coast during 2002-2003 have been compared with wind, wave, and current records from within the Mississippi Sound. The occurrence of high fecal coliform counts at multiple stations can be correlated with higher energy events in the Sound. Statistically, wind direction and high bacterial counts are correlated, and higher counts are most likely to occur when the winds are out of the west or southwest at most stations.

Publication Title

Journal of Coastal Research





First Page


Last Page


Find in your library