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Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Sep 15;36(18):3885-92.

Decadal and shorter period variability of surf zone water quality at Huntington Beach, California.

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  • 1Henry Samueli School of Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of California, Irvine 92697, USA.

Abstract

The concentration of fecal indicator bacteria in the surf zone at Huntington Beach, CA, varies over time scales that span at least 7 orders of magnitude, from minutes to decades. Sources of this variability include historical changes in the treatment and disposal of wastewater and dry weather runoff, El NiƱo events, seasonal variations in rainfall, spring-neap tidal cycles, sunlight-induced mortality of bacteria, and nearshore mixing. On average, total coliform concentrations have decreased over the past 43 years, although point sources of shoreline contamination (storm drains, river outlets, and submarine outfalls) continue to cause transiently poor water quality. These transient point sources typically persist for 5-8 yr and are modulated by the phase of the moon, reflecting the influence of tides on the sourcing and transport of pollutants in the coastal ocean. Indicator bacteria are very sensitive to sunlight therefore, the time of day when samples are collected can influence the outcome of water quality testing. These results demonstrate that coastal water quality is forced by a complex combination of local and external processes and raise questions about the efficacy of existing marine bathing water monitoring and reporting programs.

PMID:
12269739
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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