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Heal the Bay Blog

Nancy Shrodes, Associate Director of Policy and Outreach at Heal the Bay, shares our top five reasons for opposing an ocean desalination plant in the Santa Monica Bay. Join our Anti-Desal Rally on November 18 — this is our LAST CHANCE to speak out against the proposed $480-million dollar plant that will literally suck the life out of our Bay.

West Basin, a water wholesaler for seventeen cities serving nearly one million people in LA County, is proposing to build an ocean desalination plant in the Santa Monica Bay.

West Basin released their Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on October 23, 2019 for a local plant that would produce twenty million gallons-a-day (MGD), and potentially an expanded regional plant at sixty MGD. It would be placed adjacent to the coast in El Porto, using some decommissioned infrastructure from the El Segundo Generating Station (ESGS) located at 301 Vista del Mar in the City of El Segundo, California.


Why we oppose ocean desal in LA

Ocean desalination currently does not exist in the Santa Monica Bay, and its arrival would bear concerning consequences for the Bay. Heal the Bay joins many other NGOs, municipalities, state agencies, and individual community members voicing concerns about the project. We oppose the proposed ocean desalination plant for the following reasons.

1. Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water.

It is even two times more expensive than our imported water supplies that come from the State Water Project and the Colorado Aqueduct, which travel hundreds of miles to be delivered to SoCal. In fact, just moving water from Northern California up and over the Tehachapi Mountains is the single biggest energy use in the entire state, but ocean desalination uses more energy! And in the midst of our climate crisis in which we have an eleven year ticking clock, choosing ocean desalination (the most energy intensive form of water) to augment our water supply, would be a big step in the wrong direction.

2. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.”

West Basin is proposing an open ocean intake pipe with a screen, despite the fact that subsurface intake (a less harmful method of water intake) is recommended in the State’s Ocean Plan. In open ocean intake, small larval stage animals can be sucked into the system despite the screen (entrainment), and small fish that cannot fight the velocity of the intake water (at thirty feet per minute) can get stuck against the screen (impingement). The brine left over from desalination is extremely salty, and also contains any contaminants like metals that were in the ocean water originally as well as chemicals used in the desal process. This extremely concentrated brine water is disposed of via jet diffusers back into the ocean, which can be very toxic to marine organisms. As salt is much denser than freshwater, the discharged brine can accumulate and pool along the ocean floor. Considering the negative impacts of such a project, Heal the Bay believes ocean desal should only be used as a last resort for the region.

3. West Basin’s project is currently unfunded, which means that ultimately the price tag will lie with the ratepayers themselves.

West Basin currently quotes the project at half a billion dollars, but as we saw with the Carlsbad Poseidon plant, it’s likely underestimated. Ocean desalinated water from Poseidon ended up being four times more expensive than their original projected cost per acre foot of water. And the high cost of water is an environmental justice issue. West Basin has already had high costs in their environmental review process totaling $60 million to $80 million to date.


West Basin’s Service Area includes: Carson, Culver City, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and City of West Hollywood.

4. Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort.

What about other places that have pursued ocean desalination? Santa Barbara commissioned a plant that was built in 1991 as an emergency response to drought. After four months of use, it was mothballed when the rains came because rainwater provided a much more cost-effective source of water. A similar situation happened in Australia. During a historic twelve year drought, they built six ocean desal plants. Four have since been decommissioned. Although Santa Barbara has turned their plant back on and Australia, in the face of another drought, is considering recommissioning a plant, it’s not without significant costs (you can’t just flip a switch to turn back on an idle plant). There are other places, like Israel, who have excelled in conservation and recycle almost all of their water, but still can’t meet their water demand. Since Israel had no other choice to meet their demand, they turned to desalination. Only as a last resort, once all alternative water sources are exercised to the fullest extent, should ocean desal be considered.

5. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue.

  • Conservation is the best choicethe cheapest form of water is water not used. LADWP customers averaged eighty gallons per person per day (gpd), while some water customers in LA County use upwards of two-hundred gpd. After Australia’s twelve year drought, residents upped conservation efforts and now operate around forty-five gpd. Needless to say, we still have a long way to go towards conservation and efficiency.
  • Stormwater capture is another amazing source of local water. In an average one inch rainstorm in LA, ten billion gallons of water rush through our city streets, pick up pollution, and are sent straight out to the ocean. For a region that gets ten to eleven inches of rain per year on average, that’s a lot of local water we can take advantage of. Luckily, in November 2018 we passed Measure W, which provides funding to create and maintain stormwater capture projects! The Safe, Clean Water program is well on its way to cleaning up our water and putting it to good use.
  • Water recycling and groundwater augmentation are other great options. In fact, West Basin has been a leader in Wastewater Recycling, and we would love to see them continue in that direction. And just this year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced 100% water recycling in Los Angeles by 2035! It makes no sense to clean the wastewater up well enough to discharge into the ocean, only to pull it out of the ocean further south. Cut out the ocean middle man with wastewater recycling. We need to continue to cleanup any contaminated aquifers, and recharge our local groundwater storage that we are so lucky to have plenty of in the region.

For these reasons, among others, the Smarter Water LA Coalition is asking West Basin to not certify their FEIR or move forward with the project. The draft EIR resulted in more than two-hundred comments from NGOs, municipalities, state agencies, and individual community members voicing concerns about the project, many of which were not adequately addressed in the final EIR. Ultimately, the five publicly elected Board of Directors will decide if they should move forward with the project or not.

Make your voice heard

Join us on Monday, November 18 at 2:15 pm in Carson for a Rally and the Special Board meeting to let West Basin know how you feel. This is our LAST CHANCE to oppose the ocean desal plant in El Segundo! Remember to wear blue, and bring your anti-desal signs.

RSVP TO RALLY

 


 

Can’t attend our Rally or looking to spread the word? We recommend taking the following actions BEFORE November 18 to make your voice heard:

  1. Send your concerns to West Basin directly by email
    • Sample Email: I oppose an ocean desal plant in El Segundo for the following reasons: Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.” Your project is currently unfunded, which means that ultimately the price tag will lie with the ratepayers themselves. Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue. I strongly urge West Basin’s Board of Directors to NOT build this proposed plant. Sincerely, YOUR NAME, YOUR CITY
  2. Tweet at West Basin with your concerns
    • Sample Tweet: We Don’t Want Desal in the Santa Monica Bay! Ocean desalination is the MOST expensive, energy intensive and environmentally harmful way to get local water. Desal doesn’t belong in LA. I urge @WestBasin to NOT build this proposed plant. 

  1. Retweet this post: https://twitter.com/HealTheBay/status/1191511709229502464
  2. Share with your network on Facebook and Instagram:
    • I oppose an ocean desal plant in El Segundo. That’s why I’m joining Heal the Bay at their Anti-Desal Rally on Nov. 18. Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.” Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue. Join me at healthebay.org/desalrally



Our team at Frogspot in Elysian Valley. The LA River’s soft, mud-bottom sections are capable of supporting vegetation and wildlife.

In the summer of 2019, Heal the Bay’s team of water quality monitors spent many sunny days gathering freshwater samples from Malibu Creek State Park and the LA River, and testing them for bacterial-pollution in the lab. (Dive deeper into the findings.)

We’re thankful to partner with Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) who allowed us to work out of one of their labs, managed by Manuel Robles. As always, our team included local students eager to learn about water quality and public health. Along with sampling, this group also took part in outreach, educating and encouraging more people to be invested in improving the health of the LA River Watershed.

Read on for some of our team’s favorite highlights from the summer

Erik Solis
My favorite part about the summer program was not only the job itself, but the outreach to younger students who show interest in environmental science. I was able to tell them about what I do for Heal the Bay, why it matters, and how they can contribute themselves. It all comes together to make a positive impact in the community and encourage young minds to promote a cleaner L.A. watershed. I enjoyed the work I’ve done this summer, as I know I have done a huge service to the L.A. river area. I can recall this one time a couple of fishermen and women said, “Hey, the Bay healers are here!” Another favorite part was participating in the Coastal Cleanup day on September 21st, as not only was I able to meet a lot of people, talk to students, and clean up a river, but I was also able to bring my family out to participate and enjoy doing their part in doing a service to the Greater Los Angeles Area. I have also enjoyed the lab work, but it was a little overshadowed by the field work.
Stephanie Alvarez
As someone who grew in Los Angeles I wasn’t as aware of how much nature we still have in the city, and I want to help protect it and the people who want to enjoy it. My most favorite memory was when a few of us got to speak to high school students and saw how most of them grasped the urgency of keeping our water clean. They all had their own unique ideas and all agreed that keeping our waters clean was very important. This gave me even more hope that we will be able to save our bodies of water. As someone who wants to help find ways to clean water, in an effective and cheap manner, this experience helped me see the problem in different angles. I went into this program thinking only of how to clean water to drink it, and now I am thinking about how we can make it clean enough for people to swim in and wildlife to thrive in. This program helped me gain experience in the lab and helped me dream bigger. We were so lucky to have worked alongside many amazing people, and I wanted to thank Luke for being an amazing leader! I suggest, if you are reading this and you want to help your planet, to get involved. There are so many programs and events that you can sign up for free. Change always starts with one person! Together we can save our planet and our wildlife!
Blaire Edwards
I started off by trying something different and left with an abundance of information about the environment around me. My favorite part of this experience had to be learning about all the matters happening environmentally and what I can do to get more involved and help make a difference.
Christina Huggins
With so many adventurers heading outdoors to enjoy the summer weather, the highlight of sampling water quality for Heal the Bay this summer was the opportunity to connect with the community and educate them about their environment. From early morning hikes through the Santa Monica Mountains to curious explorers and hikers asking questions about our yellow boots and sample bottles. Getting the opportunity to be a part of keeping the public informed about freshwater quality has given me a new direction in my career and educational path.
Michelle Allen
The biggest highlight of working on the team this summer is knowing that what we do and the information we collect makes it to the general public. The fact that our samples that we test affect people’s choices to make safer decisions, is a huge part of why I love being a part of this team. Collecting samples is always something fun to me. I love the fact that we go out into nature and see how the land changes each time we go out while meeting people along the way.
Olivia Garcia
My favorite part of the summer was collecting water samples for analysis. I liked being able to see, understand, and make note of the factors that could potentially contaminate the water quality in the river. I was also fascinated with the quality control protocol. I gained a lot of knowledge about the importance of consistency in documentation and testing, and a better intuitive understanding of quality control as a whole. It’s hard to pick out what the overall highlight of the summer was because it was all so amazing.
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Christina and Michelle collecting samples from the popular Rock Pool in Malibu Creek State Park.

Learn more about our summer of freshwater sampling and our River Report Card.




Blaire, Olivia, and Luke collecting storm drain samples along the Elysian Valley.

Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, recounts the latest season of freshwater monitoring, reveals the disappointingly poor water quality grades, and explains what this means for public health and the future of the LA River.

The summer of 2019 marked Heal the Bay’s sixth summer sampling in Malibu Creek State Park and the fifth summer sampling in the LA River freshwater recreation areas. Currently, there is no federal or state mandate or funding for monitoring freshwater recreation areas as there is for ocean beaches. So local freshwater stakeholders monitor water quality in LA County with their own funds. Heal the Bay samples in various places to fill in some of the sampling gaps left by those organizations.

This season, we regularly monitored the Rock Pool and Las Virgenes Creek in Malibu Creek State Park, the LA River at Burbank Boulevard, and three sites in the LA River near Elysian Valley. We also sample the storm drains along the Elysian Valley to help us understand the origin and amount of bacteria entering the LA River. In total, our team collected 96 river and stream samples, and about 84 storm drain samples.

 

Disappointing Findings, Yet Encouraging Outreach

Grades in the LA River recreation zones were disappointingly poor this summer. The four sites we tested had good water quality (green grades) just 16% of the time on average. That means bacteria levels exceeded at least one standard (yellow or red grades) 84% of the time in the LA River. Malibu Creek State Park sites had similar water quality where green grades were issued 19% and bacteria exceeded standards 81% of the time. For the public, this means that water quality presents indicates a risk for human illness more than 80% of the time.

In addition to protecting public health by reporting freshwater quality grades, our mission is to conduct outreach and get more people invested in improving the health of the LA River Watershed. This summer was jam-packed with events that allowed us to spread our message and make an impact. We tabled at events along the LA River, participated in river cleanups (including the first-ever Trash Blitz at Compton Creek) and also collaborated with Pacoima Beautiful, FOLAR and CSUN to educate high school students on water quality in the river. This fall, we are continuing our student outreach by giving lectures at local high schools and providing students hands-on experience collecting water samples.

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We tabled at the Wiltern for an Ice on Fire documentary event. We even got to take over the Wiltern’s Instagram account for the day!

Looking Forward

Protecting the public from potentially harmful water has been Heal the Bay’s mission for the past 30 years with the Beach Report Card, so our next step has been to provide the same water quality information for freshwater recreation areas. Because a healthy Bay starts with a healthy LA. To dive deeper into our freshwater work, check out our River Report Card. And stay tuned for the next release in Spring 2020, which will include a full assessment of these recent water quality grades.

We are also anxiously waiting for the release of the LA River Master Plan in December 2019, which is LA County Department of Public Works’ plan to revitalize parts of the river. We are eager to see an LA River that supports both nature and the surrounding communities without displacing them, so we urge everyone to follow the LA River Master Plan updates and get involved.


Our monitoring program also got some attention in the media!




Image from STAND-L.A. Facebook page

Meredith McCarthy, Operations Director at Heal the Bay, highlights the STAND-L.A. coalition and why the City of LA must take action now to protect public health and the environment, including investing in good green jobs, protecting our children’s health, buffering communities and phasing out fossil fuels.

The STAND-L.A. coalition is urging Los Angeles City Hall to take action by implementing public health protection measures, including a 2,500-foot setback between active oil wells and sensitive land uses, such as homes, schools and medical facilities. The coalition, led by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Communities for a Better Environment, seeks to phase out neighborhood drilling in order to protect the health and safety of Angelenos on the front lines of oil extraction.

Heal the Bay proudly stands in solidarity with STAND-L.A. Oil extraction is simply incompatible with healthy neighborhoods, thriving oceans and a sustainable future for our planet.

We know firsthand that fighting Big Oil is a heavy lift. Years ago, Heal the Bay helped lead a coalition that defeated a slant drilling oil project under the sea in Hermosa Beach. Now, we cannot sit back satisfied that we prevented an oil rig in the ocean only to see it turn up in a neighborhood.

We joined the STAND-L.A. coalition at City Hall on Tuesday, October 15 for the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee hearing. The Committee reviewed the City’s Petroleum Administrator’s feasibility report on the proposed setbacks between oil sites and sensitive land uses. The report suggested a 600-foot setback for existing oil and gas wells and a 1,500-foot setback for new wells. Coalition members argued this doesn’t go far enough, and rightly so.

Having lived through many environmental policy campaigns—where industries claimed that our economy would collapse and jobs would be lost if we banned plastic bags, cleaned up stormwater or prevented sewage from dumping into the Bay—I expected a similar argument to justify continuing to drill. So I was not surprised as I listened to testimony at City Hall that the pressing issue of drilling in our neighborhoods, once again, was being framed as a binary debate between “good jobs” versus “healthy neighborhoods”.

The coalition argued that this foolish debate will never be won by prioritizing one issue over the other. Environmental and public health risks won’t be solved either. We can only make progress by thinking about the issue holistically – investing in good green jobs now weans us off our harmful addiction to oil. Protecting our children’s health now leads to a more equitable future. Buffering communities now builds a more resilient LA. Phasing out fossil fuels now creates new job and economic opportunities… and not to mention a more sustainable planet that’s facing increasingly severe impacts from climate change.

Time and time again, Los Angeles has made bold moves to protect public and environmental health. But, what happens when cities can’t afford to buy a healthy environment from oil drilling lease holders to protect its residents, or worse, cities choose to ignore the damage being done? This is the question that the City of LA is grappling with. Will we invest in long-term sustainability or will city leaders be tempted by temporary job gains and the promise of future revenue?

It’s important to make the connection to plastics here, too. What do plastics and fossil fuels have in common, you ask? The plastics industry uses as much oil as aviation. So when we think about oil drilling in neighborhoods, we must also think about why we are drilling there in the first place.

The more cheap energy and cheap plastic material we use, the more waste we generate and the greater the environmental costs. The search for profit has turned a blind eye to the burdens and costs of poor air and water quality that low-resourced neighborhoods must carry.

Plastics use is expected to quadruple by 2050. In 30 years, the weight of plastics is likely to outweigh that of fish in our ocean. Plastic waste is already having a profound impact on oceans and marine life. It is found inside animals throughout the ocean food chain, from mussels to sea turtles to whales, and is likely to end up in the human food chain. These are the conclusions from a new report released at Davos by the World Economics Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and consultancy firm McKinsey.

Environmental costs translate directly into economic costs. We can’t afford inaction and we can’t ignore the negative impacts on our communities, from blight to toxic air.

Please take a second to call or email your City Council representative and demand good jobs AND a healthy neighborhood. Insist that our region start working toward not just a new economy, but a new generative economy. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and a 2,500-foot setback.

Follow STAND L.A. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and watch this hashtag for updates #NoDrillingWhereWereLiving.



safe clean water program los angeles county

Image from safecleanwaterla.org

Appointed community representatives are meeting to determine the first slate of stormwater projects in LA County that will receive funding from Measure W. Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, shares how you can get involved in the decision-making process.

 

“I can’t believe it’s raining!” 

I heard a man exclaim this as I left Rock N Pies last winter, exiting the pizzeria and walking into a downpour that turned into the first significant rain event of the year.  

I know, it seems like it never rains in Los Angeles. But, it does! In fact, 18.8 inches of rain fell over Los Angeles County last year. This equates to almost 200 billion gallons of stormwater.

Where does the rain go? It flows through our streets, into our waterways and out to the ocean, picking up pollutants along the way that pose serious risks to public and environmental health. If we had captured and treated this stormwater for reuse, we could have protected our freshwater and ocean from the number one source of pollution (stormwater runoff), AND captured enough new water supply to meet the needs of up to 7 million residents of LA County this year.

Our current stormwater system, designed to move water from where we live to the ocean as quickly as possible, was built over 100 years ago. Los Angeles County made history in November 2018 when voters overwhelmingly approved Measure W (the Safe, Clean Water Program) to revamp this outdated stormwater system so that we can capture, clean and reuse this stormwater instead! 

In July, the Safe, Clean Water Program moved forward with a unanimous vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to approve the Safe, Clean Water Program’s Implementation Ordinance, and appoint 107 members to the Watershed Area Steering Committees (WASCs) and the Regional Oversight Committee (ROC). Shelley Luce, our CEO, will be serving on the ROC to review funding decisions across the County. 

Now that we will have nearly $300 million each year for stormwater projects, we need to figure out how to spend it.

Stormwater project applications will be accepted through December 2019, and then WASCs will decide which projects to fund by March of 2020. Each year, a new set of projects will be selected for Measure W funding. 

 

The stormwater project funding decisions must be made with consideration given to community input. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • BE AN ADVOCATE
    First, search your address to find out which WASC area you are in. Then, contact your WASC representatives to let them know what kinds of projects you would like to see in your area. 
  • ATTEND CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
    Use the Public Comment period to ask your City Council to use municipal funds for nature-based and multi-benefit projects.
  • STAY IN THE KNOW
    Sign up to get updates from the county at the bottom of their website.

 

What kinds of projects will the WASCs have to choose from? 

We won’t know for sure until we see who applies this year, but there is a wide variety of projects that can address stormwater pollution. 

GREEN PROJECTS: Purely Nature-Based

Nature-based projects use soil and vegetation to allow stormwater to naturally infiltrate into the groundwater, filtering out contaminants and storing the water for later use. Nature-based projects also provide significant additional community benefits, including improvements in air quality and community health, climate resiliency and much more. 

Examples of nature-based projects include creating and restoring natural space with wetlands, rain gardens, green streets and bioswales. We can enhance these natural systems by simply planting a variety of native plants and improving soil quality through composting and mulching. 

GREY-GREEN PROJECTS: Nature-Based Solutions with Human-Made Structures

Some projects incorporate these nature-based solutions along with human-made structures to augment natural processes. Examples include parks with pretreatment infrastructure to clean water before it percolates into the ground or gets stored for later use, and infiltration galleries or dry wells built underneath natural spaces, like parks, to increase infiltration. 

GREY PROJECTS: Strictly Human-Made

The final category is purely human-made grey infrastructure, such as diverting stormwater to a wastewater treatment facility, or infiltration galleries and dry wells installed below paved surfaces such as airports, with no above ground natural features. While these projects can improve water quality, they do not provide the same community investments and benefits discussed above that you get from nature-based projects.  

View Map of  Stormwater Projects in LA County

Visit ourwaterla.org and follow the coalition on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to see the latest updates on the Safe, Clean Water Program.

View more info En Español.

 



Heal the Bay hosts hundreds of field trips to Heal the Bay Aquarium and the beach each year. We always kick off the new school year with the biggest field trip of them all: Coastal Cleanup Education Day!

The entire Heal the Bay team takes part in this special day for hundreds of local students in Grades 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Students are invited to experience natural phenomena and explore the great outdoors while practicing science skills. See all the photos from the day.

Inspiring today’s youth with real-world science

This year, we hosted 480 students from ten schools (9 from Los Angeles Unified School District and 1 from Long Beach Unified School District). Kelly Kelly, Heal the Bay’s Education Manager, says students honed in on Next Generation Science Standards “NGSS” Science and Engineering Practices – making observations, asking questions and developing explanations. They also experienced local beach ecology through animal ambassadors and interactions with the natural environment. Tying into Coastal Cleanup Day, students learned about watershed health, human impacts and pollution, and solutions to maintain a healthy environment – they even picked up 18 pounds of trash from Santa Monica State Beach.

Overheard on Coastal Cleanup Education Day

Students were overheard saying, “This is the best day ever!” And when asked what their favorite part of the day was, one student replied  “Sharks! Touching the animals! I’ve never gotten to touch them before,” and “the beach was really awesome!”

One staffer said a highlight for her was when the students made a real-time connection between what they were learning and what they were seeing. After students reviewed a lesson on watersheds and storm drains in Heal the Bay Aquarium, they walked by grates in the ground on their way to the beach, and the students pointed out – “oh those are storm drains too!”

Why is a field trip to the beach so important?

Field trips are a great way to bring lessons learned at school to life. Research shows that outdoor classrooms are a critical tool to teaching and learning science.

“Teachers can effectively use the outdoors as a learning context periodically throughout the year as they instruct lessons on science. There is wide-ranging evidence to support the use of natural environments, local communities and outdoor settings as a real-world context for science learning that engages student interest as they investigate places around them,” according to the California Department of Education.

Get involved

We wouldn’t be able to create such a rich and dynamic field trip experience, if it weren’t for our volunteers, donors and advocates. Here’s how you can help out.

Give time: Stay on the lookout at our Take Part page for our 2020 Volunteer Orientation calendar, and sign up to learn how to become a volunteer at Heal the Bay. And visit Heal the Bay Aquarium – we’re open daily and we’d love to SEA you.

Give money: With 75 cents of every donated dollar supporting science-based advocacy, grassroots community outreach, and award-winning educational programs, your donation is a smart investment. Donate today!

Give voice: Out of time AND money? We get it. Don’t forget your voice is powerful in making change, too. Advocate for healthier seas and a greener and bluer LA, not only for  future generations, but also for the youth today. Sign our Plastic Petition to reduce blight and health risks from plastic pollution in our neighborhoods and add your name to our monthly Blue newsletter for the latest campaigns and opportunities.



Volunteers remove trash at the Arroyo Seco Confluence.

View Photo Album

This year, we celebrated our 30th anniversary as the LA County coordinator for Coastal Cleanup Day. It has been an honor for Heal the Bay to steer this annual event since the 90s, especially with such vibrant community support.

Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay president says, “After 30 years of beach cleanups, we are still picking up tons and tons of trash on Coastal Cleanup Day. That’s frustrating, but the good news is that our work continues to make a difference. We see fewer plastic bags since they were banned in LA County and statewide a few years ago, so we know that changing our habits does make a difference.”

From diving underwater in the Santa Monica Bay to hiking along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and everywhere in between, 13,914 volunteers removed more than 30,165 pounds of trash — from 79 locations in Los Angeles County, in a span of three-hours — on Coastal Cleanup Day 2019.

The Most Trash:

  1. Agoura Hills/Medea Creek (120 people, 4,500 pounds of trash)
  2. Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve (153 people, 3,358 pounds of trash)
  3. Long Beach – Alamitos Bay Marina (1,226 people, 2,376 pounds of trash)

The Most People:

The location with the most people was Santa Monica State Beach – North of Santa Monica Pier, which clocked in at 1,260 volunteers and 782 pounds of trash.

The Local Heroes:

Overall 229 intrepid divers took journeys at 6 different underwater locations to remove an incredible 1,078 pounds of trash from the ocean.

At the Redondo Beach Pier in King Harbor, Thomas Kruger, head of the Dive Division at Dive N’ Surf and fellow divers Michael Cruz, Cory Alexander and Redondo Beach Police Department officers Jason Sapien and Nolan Beranek took to the waves to uncover and pull a 20-foot, 250-pound industrial ladder out from under the pier.

The ladder required three 50 pound lift bags and a 200 pound lift bag to raise it off the seafloor. This was the biggest and heaviest piece of trash collected in LA at this year’s event.

“More than 13,000 people gave their time and energy to pick up trash today, including hundreds of divers who were our heroes on Coastal Cleanup Day, going to great depths to pick up trash, including tangled fishing lines, dozens of pairs of sunglasses and goggles, a huge industrial ladder and e-scooters. That’s some nasty trash! We so appreciate their help,” remarks Shelley.

The Weirdest Finds:

  • A laptop and electric scooters (underwater in Santa Monica)
  • A 20 foot industrial ladder (underwater in Redondo Beach)
  • Horseshoe (Compton Creek)
  • Cat skull  (South LA)
  • Positive pregnancy test (White Point Beach)
  • Shake weight (Venice)
  • Half a rat (Arroyo Seco Confluence)
  • California King Mattress-sized Styrofoam block  (Arroyo Seco Confluence)

LOCAL TREASURES

We organized 79 sites this year – here’s a deeper look at four incredible locations in Los Angeles County from summit to sea.

San Gabriel River – East Fork

This year, for the first time, the San Gabriel River – East Fork area took part in Coastal Cleanup Day!

From mountain lions and bighorn sheep to the threatened Santa Ana Suckers, this special place in the San Gabriel Mountains is a hotspot for biodiversity. The San Gabriel Mountains were designated as a National Monument in 2014. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “The designation will help ensure these lands remain a benefit for all Americans through rock art that provides a glimpse into ancient civilizations, an observatory that brought the world the cosmos, and thousands of miles of streams, hiking trails and other outdoor recreation opportunities.”

A volunteer, @adventureiscallingme_ tells us, “As a first timer in Coastal Cleanup Day, I’m glad to have been invited by the East Fork’s Golden Preservation and Nature for All Stewards. I was shocked by the amount of trash we found. It was bittersweet helping because of the amount of trash we saw, but also the difference we made together. We’ll be back!”

Other new sites added to LA County’s Coastal Cleanup Day this year included Zuma Beach, Temescal Canyon Park and Rio del Los Angeles. Emely Garcia, Heal the Bay Beach Programs Manager and organizer of Coastal Cleanup Day says, “the new sites are extremely important because they add to the spectrum of representation for unique wild places you can only find in LA.”

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve

Tucked away in the San Fernando Valley, adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area boasts winding, flat trails through the floodplain, marshes and ponds in an expansive recreation, habitat restoration and wildlife area.

On Coastal Cleanup Day, 153 volunteers removed a whopping 3,358 pounds of trash from the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, a refuge for 240 bird species that migrate, nest or live in the area. Kris Ohlenkamp, a resident expert on the endemic and migrating birds of the Sepulveda Basin who works with the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, says many birds come and go with each season and therefore it’s always an exciting time for bird watching. Kris hosts monthly bird walks in the area, which is also home to local California plants, including Fremont’s cottonwood, Coast live oak, Valley oak and California sycamore.

He shared our concern for the declining bird populations. The number of birds in the United States and Canada has decreased by 3 billion (29 percent) over the past half-century as reported recently in the NY Times. This sobering statistic has put the spotlight on what we can do locally to save the birds. Important actions we must take include protecting and restoring the remaining wildlife areas in our region, which provide habitats for birds and animals.

Arroyo Seco Confluence

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The Arroyo Seco is a major tributary of the LA River; the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the LA River is historically and culturally significant as it was an area utilized by the Tongva people and others. Today, the confluence’s ecosystem is drastically different; the two channelized waterways are encased in concrete – often mistaken for roads, not the rivers that they are. 

On Coastal Cleanup Day, there were groups from Pasadena City College and CSULA among others and in total 73 volunteers showed up at Arroyo Seco Confluence. Participants cleaned along an access road down to the LA River and in the channels, pulling out over 1,500 pounds of trash, including a potato, half of a dead rat, shopping carts, a Home Depot metal lumber cart and so much plastic and smaller items stuck in river muck and sediment. 

“Nearing the end of the cleanup, I was so impressed to see many of the volunteers really getting adventurous – some were just in sneakers, but fully in the river muck and water, going after that next piece of trash just out of arm’s distance,” recalls Katherine Pease, site captain and Heal the Bay scientist.

Speaking of weird trash, Scouts from Troops 5 and 55 of Pasadena removed a California-King mattress-sized block of Styrofoam from a different part of the Arroyo Seco, near the Rose Bowl. As volunteers carried it up a hill, the foam crumbled apart, so they had a train of followers picking up all the pieces. 

Dockweiler Beach

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Coastal Cleanup Day at Dockweiler Youth Center. Photo by Venice Paparazzi

One cleanup site, welcoming families with games and good, clean fun, was the Dockweiler Youth Center and State Beach, co-hosted by the Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors and LA Waterkeeper. Together these organizations threw a cleanup party with colorful arts and crafts, raffles and an annual poster contest that wraps ocean-inspired artwork around trash receptacles on public beaches and parks in LA.

“The Dockweiler cleanup drew hundreds of volunteers who affirmatively demonstrated their desire for a better, cleaner coast. The number of young people who participated gave us hope that our future leaders will care deeply for the ocean and our cherished beaches. They understand what must be done and are not afraid to make the needed changes in their daily lives that will lead to healthier, cleaner beaches and oceans – setting a great example and inspiring adults around them,” says Gary Jones, Director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors

SAYING THANKS

Heal the Bay has many to thank – from our statewide organizers to site captains to sponsors to all the partners and organizations that came together to make this day relevant and unique for so many people in LA and beyond.

“Some of the most memorable moments were meeting our new and returning site captains at our site captain trainings. Our 100+ site captain volunteers ranged from 16 to 75 years old; it was inspiring to see everyone engaged in lively conversation and listening to one another,” says Emely.

We’re grateful to get a front-row seat for the moment when so many local environmental all-stars shine!

A special thanks to ALL our Coastal Cleanup Day sponsors:

“We have amazing partners in this work. The Ocean Conservancy coordinates Coastal Cleanup Day all over the world and comes to our Los Angeles event every year, and this year we also had the K-Swiss team here picking up trash and sporting the new Heal the Bay shoes, which are made with recycled plastics and a reduced carbon footprint. We love working with both of these partners, and so many more, to keep our coasts and oceans clean,” Shelley continues.

WHAT’S NEXT

“Our biggest concern today is still all the plastic trash – takeout containers, water bottles and caps, cigarette butts, food wrappers and disposable packaging are everywhere. We have got to reduce the volume of this toxic trash in our waterways and in our daily lives,” states Shelley.

We’re already saving the date for next year’s Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 19, 2020! Sign up for our email alert to stay in the loop.



The California legislative season has officially ended and the transformative waste reduction policies, SB 54 and AB 1080, did not pass. However, they did not fail either! The bills were never voted on, so they are still eligible for votes starting in January 2020 and throughout the 2020 session.

We know this isn’t the news you wanted to hear – and we share your deep disappointment. But, there is always a silver lining, right?

Heal the Bay, along with our Clean Seas Coalition, did make incredible headway this year thanks to the momentum you helped create. Here are three things re-energizing us to keep fighting for plastic reduction policies:

1. The time for us to act is now: Landmark legislation that transforms industry practices can take years to pass. Your voice of support changed the conversation. Now, it’s not a matter of IF we will pass legislation that reduces single-use plastics, it is a matter of WHEN. Representatives and manufacturers heard our message loud and clear: The longer we delay the inevitable push to reduce single-use plastics, the more damage is done to public health and the natural environment.

2. Every bit of progress counts: While we didn’t see this monumental legislation pass, action was taken in California this year to reduce waste. Lawmakers approved multiple recycling and single-use plastic waste reduction bills that are now on the Governor’s desk for signing. AB 54 will provide $5 million to fund a pilot mobile recycling project overseen by CalRecycle. AB 792 includes a requirement that plastic bottles be made of 50% recycled materials by 2030. AB 1162 will curb single-use plastic bottles in the lodging industry. AB 1583 (The California Recycling Market Development Act) is focused on developing and bolstering the state’s recycling market as a response to China’s National Sword Policy. SB 8/AB 1718 will ban smoking in state beaches and parks and combat the number one item we find on beaches at cleanups, cigarette butts. And, earlier this summer, Governor Newsom signed the newly approved AB 619 into law, which allows vendors at concerts and festivals in California to serve food on reusable containers. There is another comprehensive piece of environmental legislation – SB 1 – that protects California from the effects of recent and future environmental protection rollbacks. SB 1 ensures that our state maintains tough standards under the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act. We hope to see Governor Newsom sign all of these bills into law!


Trash collected at a Heal the Bay cleanup in 2019. Photo by Marvin Pineda

3. Big change can happen locally: Heal the Bay is zooming in on local regulations and activities that reduce single-use plastics here at home in the Los Angeles region. For example, we’re hoping more communities and cities in Los Angeles will reduce plastic waste by adopting ordinances aimed at tackling single-use and disposable items. Wherever you may be located, we encourage you to attend a city council meeting or a town hall near you and speak during the public comment session about your concerns. When we pass strong policies locally, there is a greater likelihood that the state will take similar action. Check out our FAQs to bust some common myths about passing plastic reduction legislation.

We will continue to push for local and statewide single-use waste reduction to protect our communities and our environment in 2020 and beyond. Thank you to everyone who supported our efforts to combat plastic pollution. From the 410,000+ people who signed our petition to the thousands of people who called their representatives and posted on social media in support of SB 54 and AB 1080, thank you.

 

Finally, thank you to the authors of this legislation, Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, we could not have made it this far without you.



Meet the local artist and illustrator behind our 2019 Coastal Cleanup Day poster, and get a glimpse of the process all the way from brainstorm to sketchbook to print. We love the final product and the journey it took to get here, thanks so much Aaron!

Give us some background on yourself and this project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Aaron Gonzalez and I’m a Los Angeles-based creative. The majority of my work is a stylized documentation of what’s going on around me, so my work naturally reflects L.A. It was a real honor to spend time drawing the variety of wildlife in L.A. County for this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day. My work tends to be a blend between representational and imaginative drawings, but this project leaned more on the representational side. Below is the final product.

What was your goal, inspiration, and process for creating this poster?

In addition to advertising Coastal Cleanup Day, the main goals of this poster were to highlight the local wildlife living throughout and watershed running through L.A. County. It was important to Heal the Bay and I to provide a visual aid explaining a watershed, since there is a lack of visuals on the topic. Watersheds keep L.A. County connected through waterways that flow from summit to sea. It’s extremely necessary we keep our waterways clean because it has a direct impacy on our water supply and the health of our natural environment.

We decided to break the poster up into thirds to represent the mountain, river, and ocean regions. By including these three regions, we hoped to communicate how Coastal Cleanup Day doesn’t only have cleanup sites on the coast, but throughout L.A. County. I depicted L.A. County’s watersheds with a painting made up of loops flowing through the composition and ending where the poster text begins. I’ve always been a big fan of hidden messages within images, so I included “LA” within the waterways toward the top of the poster.

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A collection of poster iterations we explored, before settling on the final version.

During the poster design process, I took a couple of trips to Heal the Bay Aquarium and spent some time with a few of the marine animals I was drawing. I also took a trip to visit my sister, who is studying wildlife biology at Humboldt State. She gave me insight on what to be mindful of when depicting animal and plant life. For example, how the wrong petal or leaf count can determine one plant species from another. Heal the Bay provided me with a hefty list of animal and plant species to include, along with their scientific names, so it made my job easier and the drawings more accurate. It was also super helpful to have in-house aquarists at Heal the Bay Aquarium and scientists at Heal the bay to double check the accuracy of each species.

What were some of your favorite parts of the process and things to illustrate?

My favorite animal to illustrate was the egret. Not only is it iconic to L.A., but the physical features are super interesting. I like to draw wavy and wobbly lines, so drawing the egret’s elongated neck was really satisfying. I had to keep the consistency of drawing representational wildlife throughout the poster, but I kept thinking about the possibilities of drawing an egret with an extra long wobbly neck with twists and turns similar to the waterways in the background. One of the toughest animals to draw was the sea hare. For the longest time, I didn’t know what I was looking at. They look like deformed blobs with spots. It was one of those drawings where you didn’t know what you were making until it was done. I had to draw multiple sea hares, close my notebook, open it the next day with fresh eyes until I understood what they were. Now they’ve become some of my favorite drawings from the poster.

Another aspect of the project I was really excited about was the Korean lettering for the poster’s language variations. I am not familiar with Korean, so it felt like I was creating abstract shapes and developing a secret code. The challenge was to make the Korean text match the type style I was creating for the English and Spanish versions, maintain the consistency of each character’s height and width, and do my best to keep it legible. I managed to recognize a few patterns within the text by the end of it and I now look at signs in Koreatown a lot differently. I sent off what I came up with and was excited to hear it was approved by the Korean translator.

On top of the watershed, I sprinkled each wildlife species in their proper region. I keep imagining these drawings as textile adorning objects. Forming textile designs based on specific groups within a particular region would be great. For example, all of the plant life from the river and mountain regions living on a button down shirt or sundress. Or a collection of aquatic life forming a pattern on the interior of a beach bag. The possibilities are endless.

Overall, it was an amazing opportunity to design this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day poster. Heal the Bay is an incredible organization who has been amazing to work with from start to finish. Thank you for all that you do.

 


If you’re curious to see more of Aaron’s work, check out his website and Instagram.

To see more behind-the-scene sketches, see our Heal the Bay Instagram.



Heal the Bay extends our deepest sympathies to all of those who experienced loss in the destruction of the dive boat Conception near Santa Cruz Island on Monday, September 2. The diving community is a close-knit group of passionate people who truly love and appreciate the ocean. Our thoughts are with the families and friends who lost their loved ones.

We are saddened to hear about Marybeth Guiney, a Heal the Bay cleanup volunteer and donor dating back to 2011, who was aboard Conception.


Marybeth Guiney is pictured here to the far right-hand side at a Heal the Bay Speakers Bureau Training in  2017.


Marybeth Guiney is pictured here in the center under the banner holding up a peace sign after a beach cleanup on March 18, 2017.


Ways to Donate

Please seek out the individual GoFundMe pages in support of families.

The divers on the Conception were drawn to the wonders of the Channel Islands. In memory of those ocean lovers, here are some organizations that support this critical ecosystem:

Channel Islands Restoration
Channel Islands Park Foundation

Support local first responders:

Coast Guard Foundation
Red Cross – Santa Barbara Chapter

Please contact us if you have additional recommendations for GoFundMe pages and organizations to support. We did our best to comprise fundraising resources, and we appreciate any suggestions you may have.


In memory of Conception and in honor of all the lives lost, we’re holding a Community Gathering and Vigil at Heal the Bay Aquarium with Eco Dive Center on Thursday, September 5 from 6:00PM to 10:00PM. Our hope is to bring together family, friends, the diving community and the general public to grieve. We kindly ask attendees to please bring open hearts and dive lights or flash lights, if you have them.

Event Information

Event Schedule

  • 6:00pm – Gathering at Heal the Bay Aquarium. Dive videos on display; Bringing a reusable beverage container is recommended.
  • 7:00pm-7:15pm – Formal words from:
    • Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO and President
    • Richard Bloom, Assemblymember for the 50th Assembly District including Santa Monica
  • 7:15pm-7:45pm – Open mic for storytelling and sharing; getting ready for procession
  • 7:45pm-8:00pm – Vigil procession down to beach
  • 8:00pm-8:45pm – Gathering on shore to hear bagpipes in memory of those lost
  • 8:45pm-10:00pm – Gathering at Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica Pier

Transportation to Heal the Bay Aquarium

  • Take the #7 Big Blue Bus to Downtown Santa Monica
  • Take the Expo Train to the last stop at Downtown Santa Monica
  • Paid parking on top of Santa Monica Pier and Lot 1 North