Development and evaluation of a decision-supporting model for identifying the source location of microbial intrusions in real gravity sewer systems

Minyoung Kim, Christopher Y. Choi, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Assuming a scenario of a hypothetical pathogenic outbreak, we aimed this study at developing a decision-support model for identifying the location of the pathogenic intrusion as a means of facilitating rapid detection and efficient containment. The developed model was applied to a real sewer system (the Campbell wash basin in Tucson, AZ) in order to validate its feasibility. The basin under investigation was divided into 14 sub-basins. The geometric information associated with the sewer network was digitized using GIS (Geological Information System) and imported into an urban sewer network simulation model to generate microbial breakthrough curves at the outlet. A pre-defined amount of Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is an indicator of fecal coliform bacteria, was hypothetically introduced into 56 manholes (four in each sub-basin, chosen at random), and a total of 56 breakthrough curves of E. coli were generated using the simulation model at the outlet. Transport patterns were classified depending upon the location of the injection site (manhole), various known characteristics (peak concentration and time, pipe length, travel time, etc.) extracted from each E. coli breakthrough curve and the layout of sewer network. Using this information, we back-predicted the injection location once an E. coli intrusion was detected at a monitoring site using Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). The results showed that ANNs identified the location of the injection sites with 57% accuracy; ANNs correctly recognized eight out of fourteen expressions with relying on data from a single detection sensor. Increasing the available sensors within the basin significantly improved the accuracy of the simulation results (from 57% to 100%).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4630-4638
Number of pages9
JournalWater research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013



  • Artificial Neural Networks
  • Microbial intrusion
  • Sewer system
  • Source identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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