Observations of transport of bacterial-like microspheres through beach sand
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Often, there is an order of magnitude more fecal indicator bacteria (enterococci) in beach sand than in nearby water. Consequently, sand is considered a reservoir for these bacteria, potentially contributing to poor water quality, and raising questions regarding the human health risks associated with sand exposure. An integral aspect of the distribution and persistence of sand-associated enterococci is the transport of bacteria introduced into the beach environment. Here, plastic microspheres are used as a proxy to examine the wave-induced movement of bacterial-like particles through sand on an ocean beach. Laboratory tests suggest microspheres and bacteria move similarly through sand columns, and have qualitatively similar short-term adsorption-to-sand behavior. Microspheres buried similar to 0.05 m below the sand surface on an ocean beach moved rapidly [O(10(-3)) m/s] away from their initial location, both vertically into the ground water below the sand and horizontally seaward within the sediment matrix in response to waves running up the beach face and percolating through the sand. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.