NOAA Begins Tracer Experiment at South Central Outfall, Delray Beach

July 11, 2008

Scientists from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami will conduct an experiment through Sunday that temporarily will color the water red along coastal waters off southeast Florida to investigate the plume emerging from the South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Plant ocean outfall.

Two harmless and biodegradable chemical tracers (sulfur hexafluoride and rhodamine-wt) will be injected into outgoing treated-wastewater stream flow and will then be tracked by the University of Miami’s research ship Walton Smith.

Samples obtained from the research ship will be analyzed for a variety of chemicals (in addition to the tracer chemicals), including nitrate (NO3-), nitrite (NO2-), ammonium (NH4+), and several microbiological markers.

The South Central outfall, in Delray Beach, is the smallest of six treated wastewater outfalls in South Florida. The outfall extends approximately one mile from shore, and the plume from the rhodamine-wt (a red dye widely used in tracer studies) used in the current experiment will be visible on the surface of the water proceeding downstream.

This experiment – along with one conducted in February 2007 – will provide the first quantitative description of the outfall plume in the near-shore region.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.