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Study: Sticking to the sand might not be such good, clean fun for beachgoers

er of beach closures and health advisories throughout the United States has increased steadily, according to the NRDC. In 2005, the council tallied more than 20,000 days of closures and advisories in the 29 states along the oceans and Great Lakes-a 5 percent increase over the previous year. The group attributed the rise to increasing coastal development, a year of heavy rainfall-which results in extra sewage runoff-and improved monitoring. NRDC began monitoring beach pollution nationwide in 1990.

To test their hypothesis, the Stanford researchers headed to Lovers Point-a popular recreational beach in Monterey-and collected exposed sand above the tide line that contained enterococci, bacteria also found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. In a laboratory at Stanford, they ran filtered water from Monterey Bay over columns packed with the sand they had collected.

What they found confirmed their hypothesis: The concentration of bacteria in the sand decreased, while its presence in the seawater increased after it flowed through the sand samples.

The team then returned to Lovers Point to research the movement of bacteria from sand to sea in the field. The researchers collected sand from strategic locations that would follow the hypothesized flow of bacteria. They found that when the dry sand became submerged by seawater during the flooding tide, enterococci were removed from the sand and transported into the water.

"The fact that the bacteria actually can be transported from the sand to the sea is important," Boehm said.

National standards for fecal bacteria in seawater were determined by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1986. In 1999, California became one of the first states to mandate weekly water quality tests during peak tourist season, which runs from May to October.

At Lovers Point, Boehm and her team found that the amount of enterococci washed from the dry sand to the sea during their study w
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Contact: Michael Pea
michael.pena@stanford.edu
650-725-4275
Stanford University
7-Aug-2007


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