A chromosomally lux-marked (Tn5 luxCDABE) strain of nontoxigenic Escherichia coli O157:H7 was constructed by transposon mutagenesis and shown to have retained the O157, H7, and intimin phenotypes. The survival characteristics of this strain in the experiments performed (soil at -5, - 100, and - 1,500 kPa matric potential and artificial groundwater) were indistinguishable from the wild-type strain. Evaluation of potential luminescence was found to be a rapid, cheap, and quantitative measure of viable E. coli O157:H7 Tn5 luxCDABE populations in environmental samples. In the survival studies, bioluminescence of the starved populations of E. coli O157:H7 Tn5 luxCDABE could be reactivated to the original levels of light emission, suggesting that these populations remain viable and potentially infective to humans. The attributes of the construct offer a cheap and low-risk substitute to the use of verocytotoxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 in long-term survival studies.