Part 1: Where is Huntington Beach?

View Larger Map

Sources of Bacterial Contamination

Objective: Use this map to identify some possible sources of fecal bacteria that might make it unsafe to swim at Huntington Beach, California. The kinds of bacteria that cause trouble are found in the feces of warm blooded animals, including humans, dogs, seals and birds.

Take a look at this map, and click the "Map" button to get oriented. You should see blue ocean in the lower left hand corner, and a very straight channel running from the top of the map toward the bottom. The label "Huntington State Beach" should be near the left hand side. The beach is marked in green (it's a state park), and there are several possible sources for bacterial contamination. Remember this view. Now click on the "Sat" button to get a satellite view of the area.

That straight channel is the Santa Ana River; it's actually a concrete culvert. Can you see what look like sandbars? Southern California has a very dry climate, and most of the water in the Santa Ana watershed is used for irrigation, so there is often no water at all in the channel. A number of storm drains also empty into that channel, carrying runoff from streets. Have you ever "curbed" your dog while out for a walk? That used to be pretty common - people would leave the dog's feces in the gutters to be washed down the storm drain. How would this behavior affect the Santa Ana River?

Look at the triangular area defined by Brookhurst St, the Pacific Coast Hwy and the Santa Ana River. Zoom in if you like. All those tanks are part of a sewage treatment plant run by the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD). The partially-treated effluent from that plant runs into a long pipe and empties out 7.5 km offshore from the beach. To see how far that is, you may need to click the "view larger map" link.

Now look just to the left of the sewage plant, across the highway from the beach. That dark green area is Talbert Marsh, home to a wide variety of waterfowl. It empties into the ocean through the narrow channel just to the left of the Santa Ana river.

After examining the immediate area of Huntington Beach, you may wish to zoom out on the map for the larger context. The beach is southeast of Los Angeles.

Assignment 1:

We already know that Huntington Beach has suffered from high bacterial concentrations. Write a sentence or two for each possible source of bacteria, Talbert Marsh, the Santa Ana River and the OCSD sewage outfall. Describe how you think each might contribute to problems at the beach, and explain which source seems most likely to you.

Back to Intro Huntington Beach Next: CA State Water Quality Standards