Estimation of the dilution field near a marine outfall by using effluent turbidity as an environmental tracer and comparison with dye tracer data
The alternative use of effluent turbidity to determine the dilution field of a domestic marine outfall located off the city of Rio de Janeiro was evaluated through field work comprising fluorescent dye tracer injection and tracking with simultaneous monitoring of sea water turbidity. A preliminary laboratory assessment was carried out with a sample of the outfall effluent whose turbidity was measured by the nephelometric method before and during a serial dilution process. During the field campaign, the dye tracer was monitored with field fluorometers and the turbidity was observed with an optical backscattering sensor interfaced to an OEM data acquisition system. About 4,000 samples were gathered, covering an area of 3 km × 3 km near the outfall diffusers. At the far field – where a drift towards the coastline was observed – the effluent plume was adequately labeled by the dye tracer. The turbidity plume was biased due to the high and variable background turbidity of sea water. After processing the turbidity dataset with a baseline detrending method, the plume presented high correlation with the dye tracer plume drawn on the near dilution field. However, dye tracer remains more robust than effluent turbidity.