The state of California mandates fecal indicator bacteria monitoring at all public beaches. When the concentration of fecal bacteria in the water exceeds a certain limit (400 colony-forming units of fecal coli form per 100 milliliters), local health officials must post a sign (called surf zone posting) warning beachgoers of potential health risks upon entering the water. For fecal bacteria, the state uses a single-sample standard; that is, if the fecal limit is exceeded in a single sample of water, surf zone posting is mandatory. This single-sample standard policy has led to a recent rash of beach closures in California.
Joon Ha Kim and Stanley B. Grant, engineers at the University of California at Irvine, conducted a study of the surf water quality at Huntington Beach in California and reported the results in Environmental Science & Technology (September 2004). The researchers found that beach closings were occurring despite low pollution levels in some instances, while in others signs were not posted when the fecal limit was exceeded. They attributed these “surf zone posting errors” to the variable nature of water quality in the surf zone (for example, fecal bacteria concentration tends to be higher during ebb tide and at night) and the inherent time delay between when a water sample is collected and when a sign is posted or removed. In order to prevent posting errors, the researchers recommend using an averaging method, rather than a single sample, to determine unsafe water quality. (For example, one simple averaging method is to take a random sample of multiple water specimens and compare the average fecal bacteria level of the sample with the limit of 400cfu/100mL in order to determine whether the water is safe.) Discuss the pros and cons of using the single-sample standard versus the averaging method. Part of your discussion should address the probability of posting a sign when in fact the water is safe and the probability of posting a sign when in fact the water is unsafe. (Assume that the fecal bacteria concentrations of water specimens at Huntington Beach follow an approximately normal distribution.)

  • CreatedMay 20, 2015
  • Files Included
Post your question