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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Sep 1;44(17):6731-7. doi: 10.1021/es100797r.

Coastal loading and transport of Escherichia coli at an embayed beach in Lake Michigan.

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United States Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station, 1100 North Mineral Springs Road, Porter, Indiana 46304, USA.


A Chicago beach in southwest Lake Michigan was revisited to determine the influence of nearshore hydrodynamic effects on the variability of Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentration in both knee-deep and offshore waters. Explanatory variables that could be used for identifying potential bacteria loading mechanisms, such as bed shear stress due to a combined wave-current boundary layer and wave runup on the beach surface, were derived from an existing wave and current database. The derived hydrodynamic variables, along with the actual observed E. coli concentrations in the submerged and foreshore sands, were expected to reveal bacteria loading through nearshore sediment resuspension and swash on the beach surface, respectively. Based on the observation that onshore waves tend to result in a more active hydrodynamic system at this embayed beach, multiple linear regression analysis of onshore-wave cases further indicated the significance of sediment resuspension and the interaction of swash with gull-droppings in explaining the variability of E. coli concentration in the knee-deep water. For cases with longshore currents, numerical simulations using the Princeton Ocean Model revealed current circulation patterns inside the embayment, which can effectively entrain bacteria from the swash zone into the central area of the embayed beach water and eventually release them out of the embayment. The embayed circulation patterns are consistent with the statistical results that identified that 1) the submerged sediment was an additional net source of E. coli to the offshore water and 2) variability of E. coli concentration in the knee-deep water contributed adversely to that in the offshore water for longshore-current cases. The embayed beach setting and the statistical and numerical methods used in the present study have wide applicability for analyzing recreational water quality at similar marine and freshwater sites.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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