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Surf zone entrainment, along-shore transport, and human health implications of pollution from tidal outlets

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Abstract

[1] Field experiments and modeling studies were carried out to characterize the surf zone entrainment and along-shore transport of pollution from two tidal outlets that drain into Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, popular public beaches in southern California. The surf zone entrainment and near-shore transport of pollutants from these tidal outlets appears to be controlled by prevailing wave conditions and coastal currents, and fine-scale features of the flow field around the outlets. An analysis of data from dye experiments and fecal indicator bacteria monitoring studies reveals that the along-shore flux of surf zone water is at least 50 to 300 times larger than the cross-shore flux of surf zone water. As a result, pollutants entrained in the surf zone hug the shore, where they travel significant distances parallel to the beach before diluting to extinction. Under the assumption that all surf zone pollution at Huntington Beach originates from two tidal outlets, the Santa Ana River and Talbert Marsh outlets, models of mass and momentum transport in the surf zone approximately capture the observed tidal phasing and magnitude of certain fecal indicator bacteria groups (total coliform) but not others (Escherichia coli and enterococci), implying the existence of multiple sources of, and/or multiple transport pathways for, fecal pollution at this site. The intersection of human recreation and near-shore pollution pathways implies that, from a human health perspective, special care should be taken to reduce the discharge of harmful pollutants from land-side sources of surface water runoff, such as tidal outlets and storm drains.

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