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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Generation of enterococci bacteria in a coastal saltwater marsh and its impact on surf zone water quality.

  • Author(s): Grant, SB
  • Sanders, BF
  • Boehm, AB
  • Redman, JA
  • Kim, JH
  • Mrse, RD
  • Chu, AK
  • Gouldin, M
  • McGee, CD
  • Gardiner, NA
  • Jones, BH
  • Svejkovsky, J
  • Leipzig, GV
  • Brown, A
  • et al.

Published Web Location

Elevated levels of enterococci bacteria, an indicator of fecal pollution, are routinely detected in the surf zone at Huntington State and City Beaches in southern California. A multidisciplinary study was carried out to identify sources of enterococci bacteria landward of the coastline. We find that enterococci bacteria are present at high concentrations in urban runoff, bird feces, marsh sediments, and on marine vegetation. Surprisingly, urban runoff appears to have relatively little impact on surf zone water quality because of the long time required for this water to travel from its source to the ocean. On the other hand, enterococci bacteria generated in a tidal saltwater marsh located near the beach significantly impact surf zone water quality. This study identifies a potential tradeoff between restoring coastal wetlands and protecting beach water quality and calls into question the use of ocean bathing water standards based on enterococci at locations near coastal wetlands.

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