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Advances in testing help scientists zero in on sources of beach water pollution

A sign at a Franklin County beach in 2005 advises visitors against swimming because of high bacteria levels. File photo by Bruce Ritchie.

About five years ago, advanced testing of beach water for bacteria only allowed scientists to determine whether the bacteria source came from humans or animals.

That distinction didn't narrow down the possible sources very much for state and local officials who wanted to prevent beachgoers from getting sick from viruses or other pathogens associated with bacteria and fecal waste, says Valerie J. "Jody" Harwood, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of South Florida.

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