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Water Res. 2006 Aug;40(14):2593-602. Epub 2006 Jun 21.

Persistence of fecal indicator bacteria in Santa Monica Bay beach sediments.

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UCLA Civil and Environmental Engineering, 5732H Boelter Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Monitoring the water quality of recreational beaches is only one step toward understanding microbial contamination -- the primary cause of beach closings. The surf zone sediment reservoir is typically overlooked and may also be important. This study involved monitoring the fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) levels in water and sediment at three ocean beaches (two exposed and one enclosed) during a storm event, conducting laboratory microcosm experiments with sediment from these beaches, and surveying sediment FIB levels at 13 beaches (some exposed and some enclosed). Peaks in Escherichia coli and enterococci concentrations in water and sediment coincided with storm activity at the two exposed beaches, while levels of both FIB were consistently high and irregular at the enclosed beach. Results from microcosm experiments showing similar, dramatic growth of FIB in both overlying water and sediment from all beaches, as well as results from the beach survey, support the hypothesis that the quiescent environment rather than sediment characteristics can explain the elevated sediment FIB levels observed at enclosed beaches. This work has implications for the predictive value of FIB measurements, and points to the importance of the sediment reservoir.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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