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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 May 1;38(9):2626-36.

Locating sources of surf zone pollution: a mass budget analysis of fecal indicator bacteria at Huntington Beach, California.

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


The surf zone is the unique environment where ocean meets land and a place of critical ecological, economic, and recreational importance. In the United States, this natural resource is increasingly off-limits to the public due to elevated concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria and other contaminants, the sources of which are often unknown. In this paper, we describe an approach for calculating mass budgets of pollutants in the surf zone from shoreline monitoring data. The analysis reveals that fecal indicator bacteria pollution in the surf zone at several contiguous beaches in Orange County, California, originates from well-defined locations along the shore, including the tidal outlets of the Santa Ana River and Talbert Marsh. Fecal pollution flows into the ocean from the Santa Ana River and Talbert Marsh outlets during ebb tides and from there is transported parallel to the shoreline by wave-driven surf zone currents and/or offshore tidal currents, frequently contaminating >5 km of the surf zone. The methodology developed here for locating and quantifying sources of surf zone pollution should be applicable to a wide array of contaminants and coastal settings.

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