SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 2003

Sediment Transport and Deposition Processes Near Ocean Outfalls in Southern California


An urbanized coastal ocean that has complex topography and large-scale atmospheric and océanographic forcing can contain a variety of sediment and pollutant distribution patterns. For example, the central southern California Bight has two large embayments, Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays, that are connected by a short, very narrow shelf off the Palos Verdes peninsula. The complex topography causes quite different ocanographic and sediment distribution patterns in this fairly small region of the coastal ocean. In addition, three sewage outfalls discharge material over the outer shelf. A large suite of sediment cores was obtained and analyzed for contaminants, physical properties, accumulation rates, and grain sizes. Arrays of instrumented moorings that monitor currents, waves, water clarity, water density and collect resuspended materials were deployed. The data and models developed for the Palos Verdes margin suggest that a large reservoir of DDT and its byproducts exists in the coastal ocean sediment and will continue to be exhumed and transported along the shelf for a long time. On the Santa Monica shelf, very large internal waves, or bores, are generated at the shelf break. The near-bottom currents associated with these waves sweep sediment and the associated contaminants from the shelf onto the continental slope. On the San Pedro margin an initial examination of recent data collected in the coastal ocean does not suggest that bacterial contamination on local beaches is primarily caused by transport of material from the adjacent ocean outfall.

Author Information

Lee, HJ
U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA
Noble, MA
U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA
Xu, J
U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA
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Developed by Committee: D18
Pages: 253–265
DOI: 10.1520/STP11567S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5485-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-3466-9