Estuaries

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 662–668 | Cite as

Rapid movement of wastewater from on-site disposal systems into surface waters in the Lower Florida Keys

  • John H. Paul
  • Molly R. McLaughlin
  • Dale W. Griffin
  • Erin K. Lipp
  • Rodger Stokes
  • Joan B. Rose
Article

Abstract

Viral tracer studies have been used previously to study the potential for wastewater contamination of surface marine waters in the Upper and Middle Florida Keys. Two bacteriophages, the marine bacteriophage ϕHSIC and theSalmonella phage PRD1, were used as tracers in injection well and septic tank studies in Saddlebunch Keys of the Lower Florida Keys and in septic tank studies in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, of the Middle Keys. In Boot Key Harbor, both phages were detected in a canal adjacent to the seeded septic tank within 3 h 15 min of the end of the seed period. The tracer was then detected at all sampling sites in Boot Key Harbor, including one on the opposite side of U.S. Highway 1 in Florida Bay, and at an Atlantic Ocean beach outside Boot Key Harbor. Rates of migration based on first appearance of the phage ranged from 1.7 to 57.5 m h−1. In Saddlebunch Keys, ϕHSIC and PRD1 were used to seed a residential septic tank and a commercial injection well. The septic tank tracer was not found in any surface water samples. The injection well tracer was first detected at a site most distant from the seed site, a channel that connected Sugarloaf Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. The, rate of tracer migration from the injection well to this channel ranged from 66.8 to 141 m h−1. Both tracer studies showed a rapid movement of wastewater from on-site sewage treatment and disposal systems in a southeasterly direction toward the reef tract and Atlantic Ocean, with preferential movement through tidal channels. These studies indicate that wastewater disposal systems currently in widespread use in the Florida Keys can rapidly contaminate the marine environment.

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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Paul
    • 1
  • Molly R. McLaughlin
    • 1
  • Dale W. Griffin
    • 1
  • Erin K. Lipp
    • 1
  • Rodger Stokes
    • 1
  • Joan B. Rose
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine ScienceUniversity of South FloridaSt. Petersburg

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