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Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Heal the Bay

Thick, black oil covering the water along the shoreline of Huntington Beach after a spill off the coast of Orange County, California

We are heartbroken and outraged. 126,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipe into the ocean near Huntington Beach, Orange County in October 2021. Here’s how to take action. This oil spill has taken place in unceded Acjachemen and Tongva ancestral waters.

LATEST UPDATE (as of 10/14)

Orange County beaches are open, but please be cautious.

Orange County officials re-opened all beaches on Monday, October 11 after a week-long closure due to the oil spill. The decision to open the beaches appears to be based on a water quality report recently conducted by a third-party contractor. They collected water samples and measured the amount of harmful petroleum compounds present in the water. All sampling locations showed non-detectible amounts of petroleum compounds, and one site at Bolsa Chica State Beach had a non-toxic level of certain compounds. 

While the results are encouraging, Heal the Bay believes this report alone does not provide enough information to confidently re-open beaches, and we would like more information before we recommend people head out to the beach. Therefore, we continue to have an advisory listed on our Beach Report Card for Orange County beaches. Here are some facts about the report that we would like you to consider before going in the water:

  • The report only includes water quality data. Given that petroleum-related fumes pose a health risk to humans (page 2 of report), we would like to see air samples taken as well. 
  • The data in the report is only from one day of sampling. The City of Huntington Beach has stated that monitoring will take place twice a week, and results will be posted on their oil spill website
  • Only Huntington Beach beaches were sampled. We would like to see data from every beach along the Orange County coast impacted by the spill.

If you do decide to go to the beach, please do the following:

  • Avoid contact with visible oil on the sand or in the water.
  • Leave the area if you smell oil or gas.
  • Report oil sightings to tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov.
  • Shower with soap as soon as you get home.
  • Report oiled wildlife sightings to OWCN at 1-877-823-6926.
  • Check the Beach Report Card.

WHAT WE KNOW (last updated 10/7)

It began with reports from community members smelling gas on Friday afternoon, and evidence of a visible oil slick on the ocean surface by Saturday. The official announcement of the spill came later Saturday evening: 126,000 gallons of crude oil gushed from a seafloor pipe into the surrounding ocean. The pipeline (owned by Amplify Energy) transports crude oil from the offshore oil platform Elly, located off the coast of Orange County in federal waters, to the shoreline in Long Beach. According to the LA Times, US Coast Guard criminal investigators are now looking more closely into the events leading up to the spill and potential negligence in the delayed response. 

Oil spills are terrifyingly toxic to public health and marine life. Beaches are closed, and dead and injured birds and fish are already washing on shore. Marine mammals, plankton, fish eggs, and larvae are impacted too, as this toxic crude oil mixes with the ocean water, spreading both across the water surface and down into deeper water. As of 1:45 PM on October 5, only 4,700 gallons of the 126,000 spilled gallons had been recovered. Sadly this oil has also reached the sensitive and rare coastal wetlands at Talbert Marsh, a critical natural environment not only for wildlife habitat, but also for improving water quality by naturally filtering contaminants from water that flows through; however, this wetland cannot filter out oil pollution on such a scale. 


(Photo by City of Huntington Beach)

Major oil spills keep happening because oil companies prioritize profits over the health of people and the environment. This is evidenced by the fact that the oil industry has continuously sought to skirt regulations and loosen up restrictions on oil extraction. The danger posed by the oil industry’s pattern of reckless behavior is augmented when you consider that much of the oil infrastructure in California is decades old and deteriorating. This is the second major pipeline leak in 6 years. The last one in 2015 was the Refugio oil spill that resulted in 142,000 gallons of oil damaging our coastline in Santa Barbara. 

Oil spills are part of a much larger pollution problem. The impacts of fossil fuels are felt at every stage, from extraction to disposal.

Major oil spills are disastrous, yet somewhat intermittent. But air pollution from fossil fuel extraction sites and oil refineries located on land have a harmful impact every single day for fenceline neighborhoods. Low-income communities and communities of color are exposed to disproportionate health and safety risks due to a history of abundant drilling within close proximity to where community members live, work, and go about daily life. 

So, what does all this risky drilling get us? In the end we are left with products like gasoline, which contributes to the climate crisis when burned, or plastics that are used once (or not at all) and then thrown “away,” ultimately ending up right back here, polluting our neighborhoods and ocean.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

It is still unclear what caused the oil spill as well as exactly when it started and when it stopped. Divers are conducting an ongoing investigation, which will give us more information about what caused the rupture that led to thousands of barrels of oil spilling into the Pacific Ocean.


(Photo by LA Times)

Crude oil is a mixture of toxic chemicals including benzene and other carcinogens, and oil can come in a few different forms, which can have different impacts on the ecosystem. Unfortunately, we do not yet know the type of oil that was spilled, and proprietary trade laws allow oil companies to keep their oil and chemical mixtures a secret. We also do not know how cleanup progress will be monitored and if water quality testing will be included in that process or not. Based on previous spills, we expect the beaches to be closed for several weeks, and we expect environmental harm to last for years. 

WHAT NOT TO DO

At this time, the best thing you can do is to stay away from the oil spill area for your own safety. 

Stay clear of oil-fouled and closed beaches, stay out of the water, and keep boats far from the existing oil slick. As of October 4, Newport Harbor and Dana Point Harbor are closed, and a beach closure has been put into effect in Huntington Beach. Allow plenty of space for rescue workers and cleanup crews from the US Coast Guard and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response  (CDFW-OSPR) to access and work at the spill site. If you see any injured or oiled wildlife, DO NOT try to intervene on your own. Instead, report the animal to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926. 

CDFW has issued an emergency fisheries closure between Anaheim Bay and San Onofre Beach. The closure extends 6 to 10 miles offshore. Any take of fish from this area is prohibited until further notice and CDFW is carefully patrolling the area. If you are an angler, check this detailed description and map to ensure you are staying outside the fishing closure for your own health and safety. Shellfish and fish may become contaminated from the oil and other chemicals in the water. Eating fish and shellfish from the contaminated area may make you sick, and it’s also hazardous to be out there fishing because of possible exposure to harmful fumes from the spill.


(Photo by CNN)

WHAT TO DO 

Heal the Bay’s Science and Policy team is working on a public call to action with specific policy demands that we will share soon on our blog and on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook channels. In the meantime, there is still a lot that you can do while keeping a safe distance from the oil spill. 

If you are local, you can volunteer with spill cleanup efforts. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is soliciting volunteers from the public to assist in volunteer tasks with the Unified Command.

You can contact the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926 to report oiled wildlife. Currently, only trained responders may assist in the cleanup efforts. However, if you would like to sign up to be trained for future emergencies, you can fill out this OSPR Incident Volunteer Form,  or call the volunteer hotline at 1-800-228-4544 for more information.

You may encounter tarballs on San Diego and Orange County beaches. Oil contains hazardous chemicals, and for safety reasons we recommend not handling tarballs or any oil yourself. If you encounter tarballs, contact cleanup teams at tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov for assistance.

Stay informed! Review the news and reports, follow the Southern California Spill Response for information and updates, and keep tabs on the Los Angeles Times, which is doing in-depth and up to date reporting during this emergency.

We encourage you to support and follow these organizations doing great work to rescue and protect wildlife from the oil spill and champion clean water and healthy wetlands locally in Orange County:

Oiled Wildlife Care Network
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
International Bird Rescue 
Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center
OC Coastkeeper
Bolsa Chica Conservancy 
Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy 
Newport Bay Conservancy 

We suggest you follow and support these organizations who are tirelessly taking on the big fight to phase out oil drilling in our ocean, neighborhoods, and everywhere else:

Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples
Communities for a Better Environment
Azul
STAND-LA coalition 
Last Chance Alliance coalition
Center for Biological Diversity
Sierra Club 
Surfrider
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Heal the Bay (that’s us!)

This is NOT an exhaustive list; there are many organizations and individuals doing this hard work. If your group is working on the spill or fighting big oil and would like to be added to the above list, contact us

THE TAKEAWAY

If we continue to rely on fossil fuels, oil spills and air pollution are inevitable and their impacts will continue to be devastating. The only solution is to shut down this dirty industry and protect ourselves and our environment through a just transition away from an extractive fossil fuel economy. 

Here’s how to take action.

 

Ver En Español

 

This post was originally published on October 5, 2021 and will be updated as new information is provided.



The North Fork of the San Gabriel River

Heal the Bay is excited to announce that Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB1066 into law (on Friday, October 8, 2021), a new environmental policy that protects public health and water quality at California’s recreational rivers, lakes, and streams. 

Inland water recreation areas, where people swim, boat, and wade in water, should have the same health protections as coastal areas.

AB1066 takes the first steps toward addressing water quality monitoring disparities between ocean and freshwater sites. California has fecal pollution standards for freshwater, but oversight for pollution in rivers, lakes, and streams is lacking. Many swimming holes across the State are not tested for water quality, and for those that are, the monitoring and public notification protocols are not consistent. 

The new bill focuses on water quality monitoring at inland recreation areas. It tasks the California Water Quality Monitoring Council with making recommendations for a uniformed statewide freshwater monitoring program to the State Water Board by December 2023. The Council must also propose a definition for which water bodies are included in the monitoring program, namely identifying the “priority water-contact recreation sites” in California. In their report due by July 2023, the Council is compiling and analyzing existing information on freshwater recreation sites across California, existing water quality data, and proposed criteria for defining how monitored areas are prioritized such as frequency of use and equity-based metrics. 

The AB1066 legislation was authored by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, co-authored by Senator Ben Allen, sponsored by Heal the Bay, and modeled after AB411. AB411 is the guiding piece of legislation for ocean recreational water quality monitoring in California that was passed in 1997. Heal the Bay was the primary sponsor for the AB411 bill and the Beach Report Card helped gain support for it.

With the backing of Governor Newsom, AB1066 sets into motion protections for the public health of inland communities and visitors to freshwater recreation areas while addressing the public health disparity in California’s high-use outdoor places.



(Image by Last Chance Alliance)

The recent oil spill near Orange County is a painful reminder of the dangers associated with fossil fuels.

Oil spills, air pollution, and single-use plastic waste are all preventable impacts from the fossil fuel industry. There is simply no safe way to drill. The only solution is a just transition away from an extractive fossil fuel economy.

Heal the Bay is calling on our elected officials and appointed agencies to end oil drilling in state and federal waters, and to decommission existing offshore drilling operations immediately. But it is not enough to ban all offshore drilling, when Big Oil will just ramp up their operations in our neighborhoods and public lands. We must end this harmful practice everywhere.

Let’s turn this preventable disaster into an opportunity to protect communities, our environment, and our local economy.

We echo the statewide demands of the Last Chance Alliance to STOP, DROP, and ROLL. Call Gov. Newsom to support these three actions and sign the online petition.

Numerous elected officials have stepped up to call for an end to offshore drilling – this needs to include an end for existing leases and an immediate decommissioning of offshore oil platforms and operations. We are heartened especially by Senator Min’s vow to introduce this type of legislation for California, by his and Senator Newman’s call for federal representatives to do the same. We will keep you updated on state and federal legislation and how to keep pushing it forward.

TAKE ACTION NOW



Thick, black oil covering the water along the shoreline of Huntington Beach after a spill off the coast of Orange County, California

Estamos desconsolados e indignados. Este fin de semana se vertieron al océano 126.000 galones de petróleo crudo de una tubería cerca de Huntington Beach, en Orange County. El derrame de crudo ha tenido lugar en las aguas ancestrales no cedidas de los pueblos Acjachemen y Tongva.

LO QUE SABEMOS

Comenzó con informes de miembros de la comunidad que olían gas el viernes por la tarde y siguió el sábado con una mancha visible de petróleo en la superficie del océano. El anuncio oficial del derrame se produjo más tarde, el sábado por la noche: 126,000 galones de petróleo crudo brotaron de una tubería submarina hacia el agua circundante. El oleoducto (propiedad de Amplify Energy) transporta crudo desde la plataforma petrolífera Elly, ubicada en aguas federales frente a la costa de Orange County, hasta la costa en Long Beach. Según el LA Times, los criminólogos de la Guardia Costera de los EEUU están investigando detenidamente los eventos previos que llevaron al derrame y la posible negligencia en una respuesta tardía.

Los derrames de petróleo son terriblemente tóxicos para la salud pública y la vida marina. Las playas están cerradas y las aves y peces muertos y heridos ya están apareciendo en la orilla. Los mamíferos marinos, el plancton, los huevos de peces y las larvas también se ven afectados, ya que este crudo tóxico se mezcla con el agua del océano y se esparce por la superficie del agua, y hacia aguas más profundas también. A la 1:45 pm del 5 de octubre, solamente se habían recuperado 4,700 galones de los 126,000 galones derramados. Lamentablemente, este aceite también ha llegado a los sensibles y tan especiales humedales costeros de Talbert Marsh, un entorno natural crítico no solo para el hábitat de la vida silvestre, sino también para la calidad del agua ya que filtran naturalmente los contaminantes del agua que fluye a través de ellos; sin embargo, este humedal no puede filtrar la contaminación por hidrocarburos a tal escala.

Estos grandes derrames de crudo siguen ocurriendo porque las compañías petroleras priorizan las ganancias sobre la salud pública y el medio ambiente. Esto se evidencia por el hecho de que la industria petrolera ha buscado continuamente eludir las regulaciones y flexibilizar las restricciones a la extracción de petróleo. El peligro que plantea el patrón de comportamiento imprudente de la industria petrolera aumenta cuando se considera que gran parte de la infraestructura petrolera en California tiene décadas de antigüedad y se está deteriorando. Esta es la segunda fuga importante en una tubería en 6 años. La última fue en 2015, el vertido de petróleo de Refugio, un total de 142,000 galones de crudo que dañaron nuestra costa en Santa Bárbara.

Los derrames de petróleo son parte de un problema de contaminación mucho mayor. El impacto de los combustibles fósiles se deja sentir en todas sus etapas, desde la extracción hasta el desecho.

Los grandes vertidos de petróleo son desastrosos, aunque intermitentes. Pero la contaminación atmosférica de los lugares de extracción de combustibles fósiles y de las refinerías de petróleo situadas en tierra firme tiene un impacto perjudicial cada día para los barrios colindantes. Las comunidades de bajos ingresos y las comunidades de color están expuestas a riesgos desproporcionados para la salud y la seguridad debido a un historial de alta cantidad de perforaciones cerca de los lugares donde los vecinos viven, trabajan y llevan a cabo su vida cotidiana.

Entonces, ¿qué nos aporta toda esta perforación tan arriesgada? Al final lo que sacamos son productos como la gasolina, que contribuye a la crisis climática cuando se quema, o los plásticos que se usan una vez (o no se usan en absoluto) y luego se tiran “a la basura”, volviendo finalmente aquí, contaminando nuestros barrios y el océano.

LO QUE NO SABEMOS

Todavía no está claro qué es lo que causó el vertido de petróleo, ni cuándo empezó exactamente o cuándo se detuvo. La investigación en curso del personal de los equipos de buceo nos dará más información sobre lo que causó la ruptura que llevó miles de barriles de petróleo al Océano Pacífico.

El petróleo crudo es una mezcla de sustancias químicas tóxicas, como el benceno y otros carcinógenos, y se puede presentar en diferentes formas, con diferentes impactos en el ecosistema. Desgraciadamente, aún no sabemos qué tipo de petróleo se vertió, y las leyes de propiedad comercial permiten a las empresas petroleras mantener en secreto sus mezclas de petróleo y productos químicos. Tampoco sabemos cómo se supervisará el progreso de la limpieza y si se incluirán o no pruebas de calidad del agua en ese proceso. Basándonos en derrames anteriores, lo que esperamos es que las playas permanezcan cerradas durante varias semanas, y que los daños medioambientales duren años. 

QUÉ NO HACER

En este momento, lo mejor que puede hacer es mantenerse alejado de la zona del vertido de petróleo por propia seguridad. 

Aléjese de las playas manchadas de petróleo y cerradas, no entre al agua y mantenga las embarcaciones lejos de la mancha de petróleo existente. A día 4 de octubre, el puerto de Newport y el de Dana Point están cerrados, y en Huntington Beach se ha decretado el cierre de la playa. 

Deje suficiente espacio para que los trabajadores de rescate y los equipos de limpieza de la Guardia Costera de los Estados Unidos y la Oficina de Prevención y Respuesta al Derrame del Departamento de Pesca y Vida Silvestre de California (CDFW-OSPR) puedan acceder y trabajar en el lugar del vertido. Si ve algún animal salvaje herido o empetrolado, NO intente intervenir por su cuenta. En su lugar, informe del animal a la Red de Atención a la Vida Silvestre Petrolizada en el 1-877-823-6926. 

No pesque en la zona contaminada. CDFW ha emitido un veto de emergencia de la pesca. Cualquier captura de peces en esta zona está prohibida hasta nuevo aviso y CDFW está patrullando la zona concienzudamente. Si usted es un pescador, compruebe esta descripción detallada y el mapa para asegurarse de que se mantiene fuera de la veda de pesca por su propia salud y seguridad. Los mariscos y el pescado se pueden contaminar con el aceite y otros productos químicos del agua. Comer pescado y marisco de la zona contaminada puede hacer que enferme, y también es peligroso salir a pescar debido a la posible exposición a los gases nocivos del vertido.

QUÉ HACER 

El equipo de Ciencia y Leyes de Heal the Bay está trabajando en llamar a la acción pública con demandas específicas sobre normativas que compartiremos pronto en nuestro blog y en nuestros canales de Twitter, Instagram y Facebook. Mientras tanto, hay muchas cosas que puede hacer mientras se mantiene a una distancia segura del vertido de petróleo. 

Puede ponerse en contacto con la Red de Atención a la Fauna Silvestre Petrolizada de la UC Davis en el teléfono 1-877-823-6926 para informar sobre la fauna silvestre impregnada de petróleo. Ahora mismo, sólo el personal capacitado puede ayudar en los esfuerzos de limpieza. Sin embargo, si desea inscribirse para recibir formación para futuras emergencias, puede rellenar este formulario de voluntario para incidentes del OSPR o llamar a la línea de atención al voluntario al 1-800-228-4544 para obtener más información.

¡Manténgase informado! Preste atención a las noticias y los informes, siga la Respuesta al Derrame del Sur de California para obtener información y actualizaciones, y manténgase al tanto con Los Angeles Times, que está informando al día y en profundidad sobre esta emergencia.

Le animamos a que apoye y siga a estas organizaciones; están haciendo un gran trabajo para rescatar y proteger a la fauna del crudo, y defender el agua limpia y los humedales en buen estado a nivel local en Orange County:

Le sugerimos que siga y apoye a estas organizaciones; están luchando incansablemente porque se eliminen las perforaciones de pozos de petróleo en nuestro océano, en nuestros barrios y en cualquier otro lugar:

Esta lista NO es exhaustiva; hay muchas organizaciones y personas que realizan esta ardua labor. Si su grupo está trabajando en el vertido o luchando contra las grandes petroleras y le gustaría ser añadido a la lista anterior, contáctenos

LA CONCLUSIÓN

Si seguimos dependiendo de los combustibles fósiles, los vertidos de petróleo y la contaminación atmosférica son inevitables y sus impactos seguirán siendo devastadores. La única solución es cerrar esta sucia industria y protegernos a nosotros mismos y al medio ambiente mediante una transición justa que nos aleje de la economía extractiva de los combustibles fósiles. 

Permanezca atento, pronto publicaremos un seguimiento con las formas en que puede hacer oír su voz.

 

Read In English



This is a developing story and we will update information as new details come to light.

UPDATE: 7:00 pm Pacific Time on October 4, 2021.

LA Sanitation recently released a report with an in-depth description of the events that led to the sewage discharge into the Santa Monica Bay on July 11 & 12. Here is a summary of what we learned.

The discharge occurred because the Hyperion Plant’s barscreens (trash filtration devices) clogged leading to a catastrophic flood event at the facility. Raw sewage flooded large swathes of the facility and damaged machinery and infrastructure necessary for the plant to function. Millions of gallons of this sewage were released through the 1-mile outfall and into Santa Monica Bay as an emergency measure to prevent further flooding and the plant going offline completely. 

So far, no one has been able to determine the origin of the large amount of debris that clogged the barscreens that day. The flooding also made it impossible for Hyperion to determine the amount of debris that caused the blockages. These are two critical pieces of information for the incident investigation, and we are keeping up the pressure for some answers soon. Fortunately, the minute-by-minute account of July 11 & 12 in Hyperion’s report gives us some clues as to what went wrong that day and how events like this can be prevented in the future:

  1. Hyperion’s barscreens have an automated system that clears blockages when they are detected. According to the report, this feature has never been used by the plant due to “unreliable level sensors.” The barscreens are instead operated manually, and workers clear any blockages that occur. Hyperion stated in the report that this process needs to be assessed and improved.
  2. There is a barscreen bypass system in place at the plant which could have prevented the flooding. Unfortunately, workers at Hyperion were not able to use the bypass system in time – the flooding became too dangerous and they had to evacuate. In the report, Hyperion promised to review standard operating procedures and conduct emergency training for the bypass system.
  3. Hyperion will develop flood risk mitigation strategies for certain facilities and equipment at the plant. This will ensure the plant can operate if a flood event happens in the future. Given the plant’s proximity to the ocean, Hyperion’s operators need to consider tsunami mitigation in their assessment. 
  4. While the origin of the barscreen-clogging debris is still a mystery, it is an opportune moment for Hyperion and water advocates to remind the public what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet (only flush bodily waste and toilet paper, nothing else). Hyperion stated that they will increase public education efforts, which Heal the Bay would be willing to assist with as we’ve done in the past.

We appreciate the transparency and data that Hyperion has provided in their report and on their website. Nevertheless, there are still some big questions that need to be answered in addition to the origin of the barscreen debris. Hyperion has not made an official announcement that they are fully operational, and we would appreciate a timeline of when they expect that to happen. The Hyperion Recovery website is still listing some critical process equipment as currently being serviced, and there are reports that the treatment plant is almost fully operational. We are also seeking more information on the quality of the wastewater currently being discharged out the 5-mile outfall.

What was causing the foul odors near Hyperion? We are getting this question a lot, so we wanted to provide some more detail. Flooding at the plant damaged the pumps that move sewage from open-air holding tanks to the secondary processing infrastructure. For three weeks, excessive amounts of sewage built up in the holding tanks while workers repaired the pumps. The odors that have plagued South Bay communities came from these holding tanks. Hyperion stated that they have been processing this backlog of sewage, and air quality will continue to improve. We’ve also learned that Hyperion has ended the air filtration & AC unit reimbursement program for households impacted by the odors.

 

UPDATE: 10:20 am Pacific Time on September 23, 2021.

Here is what has been going on behind-the-scenes at Heal the Bay as a follow up to the massive sewage spill from the Hyperion plant back in July 2021.

We took a tour of the Hyperion plant to see the extent of damages from the incident, which is still under investigation. We learned about what’s happening to recover Hyperion as efficiently and safely as possible, and we met some of the hardworking people who have the enormous responsibility to treat LA’s wastewater day in and day out. We are working closely with LA Public Works to evaluate existing systems for repairs and upgrades at the plant where needed.

Recent data from the Hyperion 2021 Recovery website shows the effluent coming out of the 5-mile pipe from Hyperion is getting back to within regulatory limits for most water quality measurements. However, bacteria levels at the 5-mile outfall are consistently exceeding health limits, which is alarming. The public has not been provided with a timeline for when water quality improvements are expected. Fortunately, bacteria does not appear to be impacting our beaches – as indicated by beach water quality monitoring. According to the Clean Water Act, Hyperion should be fined for every day it is out of compliance with public health and safety standards. So far it has been 74 days since the spill first occurred.


An engineer points to how high the flooding water was during the catastrophic incident at the Hyperion plant on July 11-12.

When the spill occurred on July 11-12, there was catastrophic flooding within the Hyperion plant. Raw sewage permanently disabled plant electronics that control pumps and other functions at the plant, and equipment had to be replaced. For many weeks the plant could not complete the secondary phase of the treatment process, and the only option was to pump under-treated wastewater into the ocean. The replacement and repairs are mainly done and water quality is mostly back to normal. The elevated bacteria levels at the 5-mile outfall are still an issue and we are pushing the City to determine the cause and fix it as soon as possible.

The City of Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment Department (LASAN) submitted their 30-day action report to the Regional Board and US EPA, and we are reviewing it. We’ll provide an in-depth update about it soon. Recently at the request of LASAN, the Regional Water Board reduced the required sampling from daily to three times per week.

Our team continues to closely monitor water quality with the Beach Report Card and LA County’s Beach Water Quality Advisories website. The good news is, aside from the usual bummers, we’re seeing good grades at most of LA’s beaches for the past month. A couple sites with chronic water quality issues are the Santa Monica Pier and Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey — coming into contact with the water at these beach areas should generally be avoided, especially by young children, senior citizens, and people who are immunocompromised. Install our free Beach Report Card iOS or Android app so you can have the latest water quality grades in your pocket.

 

UPDATE: 7:30 pm Pacific Time on August 20, 2021.

 

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The latest beach grades for LA are in… most beaches have great water quality scores!

But, Santa Monica Beach at the Santa Monica Pier came in with an “F” grade. Avoid swimming here until water quality tests show it’s safe.

Get all the grades at our Beach Report Card.

 

UPDATE: 12:10 pm Pacific Time on August 17, 2021.


Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO, is joining a virtual townhall hosted by The Board of Public Works to discuss water quality and health impacts from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay.

The virtual townhall is on Wednesday, August 18 at 5:30 p.m. Join online or by phone.

 

UPDATE: 8:45 pm Pacific Time on August 10, 2021.

Our communities continue to have concerns and questions regarding the impacts of sewage in the ocean. Here we answer the top 5 questions we’ve been hearing on social media.

Where does the sewage magically go, which makes it safe for swimming?

Once the sewage is discharged, it travels where the ocean currents take it – that could be further out to sea, closer to shore, or it may remain in place.

Over time, fecal matter and urine will be consumed by microorganisms. This is not desirable because sewage discharges are not natural and may alter the food chain. The microorganisms consuming sewage may also consume chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and toxins contained within the fecal matter and urine. These chemical compounds might then get transferred up the food chain as other organisms consume the sewage-eating ones. Particulates like plastic and toilet paper may get ingested by larger organisms in the water or the material might settle into the sediment.

When it is deemed “safe to swim” does that mean the amount of toxins could still be above what’s normally acceptable?

Human fecal matter contains many microorganisms that can get humans sick from a single exposure. That is why our beaches are tested regularly for the presence of fecal matter, and it’s why California has strict fecal-indicator bacteria standards. Recreational water quality standards do not take into account other forms of pollution like toxins and chemicals because, in general, it takes many exposures over a long period of time to become sick from toxins and chemicals. Heal the Bay continues to advocate for increased water quality monitoring, especially for “forever chemicals” like PCBs and DDT.

How could this impact dolphins and other animals in the Bay?

We are concerned about all organisms in the Bay, including dolphins, fish, algae, and invertebrates living in the sediment. All organisms have a niche and play a role in maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. The sewage discharges will likely change the abundance and distribution of smaller organisms first as they consume the sewage. Those changes to the bottom of the food chain may then impact species that are higher up on the chain like fish and dolphins. The other concern is that chemicals and pharmaceuticals contained in the sewage will also get transferred up the food chain as the sewage-eating microorganisms are consumed by larger organisms.

How often is water quality being tested? Who is conducting these water safety tests?

Right now, the beaches between Ballona Creek and Manhattan Beach are being tested every day. Under normal circumstances, all beaches in the Santa Monica Bay typically get monitored 2-3 times a week in the summer on average. Santa Monica Bay beaches are monitored for recreational water quality by four government agencies: LASAN, LA County Department of Public Health, Sanitation Districts of LA County, and the City of Redondo Beach.

How can we prevent this in the future?

​There is an ongoing investigation into the cause of the damage to the Hyperion Treatment Plant in El Segundo, which triggered millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage to be released into the Bay. Once we know the cause(s) we can advocate for preventative measures. However, we don’t need an investigation to tell us what is obvious: the public was not sufficiently notified about the sewage discharge into the Santa Monica Bay. Heal the Bay is working to put pressure on LASAN and LA County Department of Public Health to investigate why public notifications were not forthcoming and how they can ensure more expedient public warnings.

UPDATE: 8:45 pm Pacific Time on August 9, 2021.

 

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Make your voice heard about the recent 17 million gallon raw sewage spill and the ongoing discharges of partially treated sewage into the Bay from Hyperion.

Tell the City of LA your concerns and that you demand they take immediate action to improve the emergency public notification protocols and implement preventative measures so this never happens again.

Act now: The City Council meeting starts at 10am on Tuesday, August 10.

Send in a comment to the Los Angeles City Council hearing tomorrow – use Council File # 21-0839:
https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/
-or-
Call 1 669 254 5252 and use Meeting ID No. 160 535 8466 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted into the meeting, press *9 to request to speak.

Watch and listen to the council meeting here:
Cable TV Channel 35
https://clerk.lacity.org/calendar
(213) 621-CITY (METRO)
(818) 904-9450 (VALLEY)
(310) 471-CITY (WESTSIDE)
(310) 547-CITY (SAN PEDRO AREA)

UPDATE: 10:25 am Pacific Time on August 4, 2021.

The City of Los Angeles Sanitation & Environment (LASAN) launched a new webpage that addresses sewage discharge at the Hyperion Plant in El Segundo. It briefly covers the cause of the catastrophic incident and the recovery effort underway. 

We want you to be aware of the data table (with multiple tabs) at the bottom of the page. It shows the pollutant levels in the effluent (via sampling results of what Hyperion is discharging from the 5-mile outfall), equipment status, odor monitoring results, offshore monitoring results for bacteria, and links to other data, which don’t appear to be working or filled in yet. “Effluent” is the treated wastewater that Hyperion releases to the ocean. In other words, influent is what comes into the plant (raw sewage and other debris), and effluent is what goes out of the plant (typically treated wastewater that has to meet certain standards).

VIEW LASAN’S HYPERION 2021 RECOVERY PAGE

We will be reviewing the data closely and providing a deeper analysis for you. But, our first impressions are that exceedances (aka violations) are occurring for multiple parameters in the effluent since July 11-12, indicating that LASAN is violating their permit by continuing to discharge inadequately treated sewage into the Bay, and is still not able to fully treat sewage. What is even more concerning is that the levels of certain pollutants appear to be increasing over the last couple of weeks (the weekly average numbers are getting larger). These high levels of total suspended solids (TSS), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), settleable solids, turbidity, and oil & grease may have long-term negative impacts on marine life and ecosystems. 

Our team will provide more information about the pollutants and what the potential impacts could be for the Santa Monica Bay later this week.

Despite this alarming data, recent beach water quality tests have indicated the water in the Santa Monica Bay is safe for human recreation. All beach advisories, except for Avalon Beach on Catalina Island, have been lifted because water samples have not exceeded State water quality standards. This is good news for beachgoers, but we recommend that you always check the latest beach conditions at the LA County Department of Public Health’s website and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card.

 

UPDATE: 8:00 am Pacific Time on August 3, 2021.

 

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LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) released an update last night that ocean water samples collected at the following locations have met State water quality standards and beach advisories have been lifted:

  • Dockweiler State Beach
    • Ballona Creek (Near Dockweiler Tower 40)
    • Culver Blvd storm drain
    • Imperial Highway storm drain
    • Westchester storm drain
  • Pico-Kenter storm drain (Santa Monica Beach)
  • Topanga Canyon Lagoon (Topanga Canyon Beach in Malibu)

A warning is still in place for Avalon Beach at Catalina Island (50 feet east of the pier). The Department of Public Health continues cautioning all to be careful of swimming, surfing, and playing in this area.

Thanks for staying updated.

 

UPDATE: 11:46 am Pacific Time on July 30, 2021.

 

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We are shocked that LA Sanitation & Environment (LASAN) has continued to release inadequately treated sewage into the Bay. It’s been over two weeks since the 17 million gallon sewage spill, and we are now learning that the Hyperion plant is not able to fully treat sewage.

The discharge contains bacteria and viruses as well as organic matter that causes low oxygen levels in ocean waters – the impacts on human health and marine life can be significant and very damaging. LASAN should have notified the public and stakeholders who have been tracking the spill results closely for the last two weeks. We don’t know if LASAN has increased monitoring to assess the impacts of the partially treated discharge – that needed to start immediately – and going forward we need transparency in order to ensure appropriate actions are taking place to assess impacts, protect people and wildlife, and pursue fines and mitigation measures to the maximum extent.

Heal the Bay was founded in the 1980s by local activists who refused to accept partially treated sewage being dumped into the Bay by Hyperion. It’s now 30 plus years later – great progress has been made, but without watchdogs we’re at risk of repeating past mistakes.

The LA Regional Water Quality Control Board has taken immediate action to boost monitoring in the Santa Monica Bay.

Last night we received a notice from the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) issuing an order to the City of Los Angeles LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) Hyperion Treatment Plant to provide monitoring and reporting related to the discharge of sewage on July 11 and 12.

The order details how the flooding at the plant led to non-operational equipment resulting in reduced efficiency of treatment and a reduction in the quality of the discharge from the 5 mile outfall. The order documents that since the initial incident, Hyperion has violated its discharge permit by releasing effluent that is in exceedance of limits for parameters including total suspended solids (TSS), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), turbidity, and settleable solids.

These exceedances will result in fines – however, they could have negative impacts on human health and the marine environment. We are glad to see that the Regional Board is requiring daily offshore monitoring and submission of daily monitoring and status reports. The offshore monitoring appears to include four stations, each to be tested at three depths (<1m, 15 meters, and at the outfall depth). Testing at these locations must be done for 12 parameters, including bacteria levels, which are indicative of impacts to human health.

The latest advisory from the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) states that they are continuing to test shoreline bacteria levels daily. Heal the Bay scientists and experts will be reviewing the locations and frequency of testing today by DPH and LASAN to ensure that the frequency and spatial coverage is protective of public health. And we will continue to ask for rapid methods to be used for detection of bacterial pollution – the methods being used now take 18-24 hours to obtain results and then additional time for that information to get to the public. Rapid methods would allow for more real-time results to be available to the public. 

The LA County Board of Supervisors and LA City Council members have initiated a full investigation into the 17 million gallon spill and continued discharges from Hyperion.

In addition to the Water Board’s actions outlined above, the LA County Board of Supervisors has requested a full investigation within 30 days (scroll down to our last update on 7/29 for more info). And the LA City Council is demanding a detailed report and action plan too, which includes instructing LASAN to “look for engineering opportunities during repairs to begin transforming the facility to recycle 100% of wastewater as part of the city’s Operation NEXT,” according to the Daily Breeze.

Is it safe to swim in the Bay today?

If you are deciding whether or not you should go into the water at LA’s beaches this weekend, we want to be clear: there are potential health risks at some locations.

Water quality tests from sites across the Bay have indicated high bacteria levels around El Segundo, Dockweiler, and Venice beach areas. These beach areas are under an advisory and should be avoided until tests indicate the water quality is good.

If you are heading to other areas in the Bay, we recommend that you check the latest beach conditions at the LA County Department of Public Health’s website and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card (so you can avoid beach areas impacted by bacterial-pollution issues). Conditions can change rapidly, so pay attention to beach postings and remember there is a 24-hour lag between water testing and posted warnings.

Message us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or contact us online if you need any help getting started with our Beach Report Card website or app — or if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.

UPDATE: 11:00 am Pacific Time on July 29, 2021.

One week after the massive raw sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay from the Hyperion Plant in El Segundo, the LA County Board of Supervisors met and heard an update on what went wrong, particularly related to notification protocols, and what next steps are needed. Heal the Bay staff called in to the hearing to speak on the item, but we were not able to because they cut off public comment after 1 hour for all items on the agenda. We were glad to hear at least three people speak passionately on the issue. We did send in a letter, supporting the motion as well as offering additional recommendations. You can read our letter and other public correspondence on the item here: http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/160317.pdf

The agenda item was heard around 3:15pm and included a brief presentation on the expedited report from CityGate that Supervisor Hahn requested right after the massive release of raw sewage. The findings of the report are quite disturbing and highlight multiple failures in communication and notification, primarily by the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH).

Next, Supervisor Hahn asked a series of questions of Dr. Barbara Ferrer (Director, LA County Dept Public Health), Gary Jones (Director, LA County Dept of Beaches & Harbors), and Fernando Boiteux, (Chief, LA County Lifeguard Division). Dr. Ferrer started by apologizing to the Board and the public; she took full responsibility for the failures and stated that DPH has already made fixes and will continue to improve training, processes, and protocols. Dr. Ferrer said that what happened was unacceptable and that it will never happen again. We appreciated hearing this apology and DPH taking responsibility for their actions (or lack of actions) and the commitment to do better.

Supervisor Hahn asked Dr. Ferrer about ensuring that public health – both in the water and in the community – continue to be protected as the Hyperion plant recovers from the major failure and undergoes construction to get back fully online. El Segundo neighborhoods are bearing the brunt of unbearable odors and LASAN is offering vouchers for air conditioners and hotel rooms for those affected. Dr. Ferrer assured Supervisor Hahn that water quality would continue to be tested and that the DPH team would be conducting door-to-door outreach in the community to ensure that affected residents know how to contact them, report odors, and get access to resources.

Gary Jones from Beaches & Harbors and Fernando Boiteux from County Lifeguards also answered questions about when they received notice of the sewage discharge, what could be improved in communications, and how beach closures should ideally proceed.

The motion was passed, which will result in a more in-depth After Action Report to be produced in 30 days. This follow-up report will detail what happened, where the failures occurred, and recommendations for fixing failures and ensuring this never happens again.

Heal the Bay greatly appreciated the updates and the transparency and accountability that the report and hearing provided. We will be actively following this issue and are engaging with Supervisor Hahn’s office and agencies to offer our recommendations and participate in the process. We will continue to hold agencies accountable and ensure that there are appropriate repercussions for the multiple failures that occurred.

 

UPDATE: 6:00 pm Pacific Time on July 23, 2021.

 

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A report was released this week, and made public today, about the recent 17-million gallon sewage spill from the Hyperion plant in El Segundo. “The handling of this release and the necessary public notification were failures, the initial report concluded.

The LA County Board of Supervisors will be hearing this expedited report on Tuesday, July 27 starting at 9:30 am. The Board will be voting on a motion to get this update as well as to request a more detailed “After Action” report within 30 days. Heal the Bay will be supporting this motion by sending in a letter and calling in to give oral testimony at the hearing. We will be suggesting additional recommendations, such as implementing rapid testing methods for water quality and tracking the plume through satellite imagery and other methods.

Take action!

Watch the hearing, send in an email or a letter, and try to call in to the hearing to speak (this can be challenging to do as speaking time is limited).

TUNE IN ON JULY 27:
Agenda and info on how to watch and give comment (on the first page): https://bos.lacounty.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=AezaZ2KttC4%3d&portalid=1 (agenda item #36)

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD IN ADVANCE:
To send an email or a letter in advance of the hearing (select item 36): https://publiccomment.bos.lacounty.gov/

We appreciate Supervisor Hahn’s leadership on this and hope to work collaboratively with County and City agencies to ensure this never happens again. And, if it does, that the public is notified immediately and effectively.

UPDATE: 9:10 pm Pacific Time on July 14, 2021.

This evening the LA County Department of Public Health lifted beach closures at Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach because water samples taken over the past two days have not shown dangerous levels of fecal-indicator bacteria. Based on these results, it appears safe at most locations in the Santa Monica Bay, but we urge you to exercise caution by regularly checking the LA County Department of Public Health website for water conditions and beach closures at PublicHealth.LACounty.gov/Beach and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card.

There are four sites in the Santa Monica Bay that currently do exceed State standards and coming into contact with water at these locations could cause illness – it is unclear if these exceedances are due to the sewage spill, recent rainfall, or something else:

  • Topanga County Beach at the Topanga Canyon Lagoon
  • Will Rogers State Beach at the Santa Monica Canyon storm drain
  • Santa Monica State Beach at the Santa Monica Pier
  • Manhattan County Beach at the 28th Street storm drain

Heal the Bay won’t let up on pushing for improvements that prevent sewage spills, advance water quality testing methods, and ensure public notifications happen swiftly and equitably. Thanks to everyone in the community for reaching out, voicing concerns, asking questions, staying informed, and most importantly protecting each other by sharing critical updates. This community is strong. It is amazing to see us spring into action. Thank you.

More to come on next steps, so you can take action to hold polluters accountable and to prevent this from happening again.

 

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UPDATE: 7:15 pm Pacific Time on July 13, 2021.

We have some preliminary good news to share — but don’t rush back to the water quite yet.

Water samples taken on Monday, July 12 by LA City Bureau of Sanitation & the Environment (LASAN) and LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) do not show high levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB). FIB, in significant quantities, indicate the presence of harmful pathogens in the water. Samples were taken at numerous locations at the shoreline and offshore, at various depths.

While this is good news, the beaches are still closed and will remain closed until two consecutive days of sampling show safe water quality. So, samples were taken again today and if they show low levels of bacteria, closures will be lifted tomorrow.

These results are very preliminary since the samples were taken Monday morning and early afternoon. Tides, currents and wind continue to move water around and we don’t know where the contamination may have ended up.

We also don’t know what the water quality was before the samples were collected – i.e. on Sunday evening and early Monday morning. It is possible that bacteria levels were higher then, and that people who got in the water were unknowingly exposed to poor water quality.

We appreciate that LASAN and DPH have been forthcoming with us on the results, but we feel strongly that this information should be spread widely to the general public, as early as possible. LA County DPH is responsible for notifying the public of dangerous levels of contamination. Given the significant amount of raw sewage released, nearby beaches should have been closed immediately. Delaying public notification by 12-24 hours is not acceptable.

We have heard from many concerned folx that they were at the beaches on Sunday evening and Monday all day without any knowledge of the spill, or any ability to take precautions. We will be working with City and County agencies to establish protocols that better protect public health. We also urge LASAN and DPH to use rapid methods to detect contamination more quickly. DNA-based lab methods like PCR are readily available and provide reliable results in minutes or hours, rather than the 24-hour process required for traditional bacterial monitoring. Using methods like these, in addition to traditional methods, as long as they are accompanied with good public notification, would help get critical information to our many ocean users much more quickly and could prevent significant harm to LA residents and visitors.

You can check the status of beach closures and conditions on LA County’s recorded information hotline, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-525-5662. Information about beach closures and conditions is also available online at: PublicHealth.LACounty.gov/Beach

We will continue to track this issue and keep you informed.

 

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UPDATE: 3:20 pm Pacific Time on July 12, 2021.

When did the spill occur?
The sewage spill started at 7 pm on 7/11/2021 and stopped at about 5 am on 7/12/2021. We are told by City of LA’s Bureau of Sanitation that the spill was stopped early this morning at around 5 am and all sewage is now being treated normally.

How much was spilled?
We understand 17 million gallons of raw sewage were spilled through the 1-mile outfall, which is directly offshore from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in El Segundo.

Which beaches are impacted?
Currently Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach are closed to the public. The City of Los Angeles and LA County Department of Public Health are testing beaches and water in the Santa Monica Bay. More information can be found at the LA County Department of Public Health’s website.

What should the public do to protect themselves?
We recommend the public stay out of the water in the Santa Monica Bay until further notice. Also, check the Beach Report Card for the latest ocean water quality alerts in California, and review the River Report Card for water quality information about freshwater swimming holes in Los Angeles County.

What issues does this cause to people and to ocean wildlife?
Bacteria and viruses in raw sewage are extremely dangerous to people and can carry a variety of diseases. Debris such as tampons and plastic trash, when released into the Bay, can harbor bacteria and can cause entanglement of wildlife, but it seems in this case those debris were successfully filtered out of the spill before it made it to the Bay.

Why did this happen?
We understand the inflow to the Hyperion plant in El Segundo was severely clogged and flooded the facility. The sewage left the facility untreated through the 1-mile pipe and outfall.

What is the source and how can we hold them accountable for pollution?
This is fully the responsibility of the City of LA and their Bureau of Sanitation. The City normally does a very good job of containing and fully treating hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage every day – but when spills happen the City must move quickly to warn the public, and must discover and fix the cause to prevent future spills.

How can sewage spills be prevented?
Proper maintenance as well as people not flushing trash items such as plastic trash into the system are the best preventative measures.

How often do sewage spills occur?
The last major sewage spill in Los Angeles County was in 2015. However, smaller sewage spills are not an uncommon occurrence. In 2020 to 2021, seventy-five sewage spills sent a total of 346,888 gallons into rivers, lakes, and streams within Los Angeles County. One 222,542 gallon spill in February 2021 closed all the beaches in Long Beach; this area is monitored by Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card. A total of 39,621 gallons of sewage were spilled into the Los Angeles River, and 140 gallons were spilled into Las Virgenes Creek; both waterways are monitored by Heal the Bay’s River Report Card.

For more information about sewage spills, visit LA County Department of Public Health’s website.

 

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Watch our IG Live below where we answer your questions with our CEO Shelley Luce and Communications Director Talia Walsh.

 

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Nick Gabaldón Day will take place on Saturday, October 9, 2021.

Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. Gabaldón’s passion, athleticism, discipline, love, and respect for the ocean live on as the quintessential qualities of the California surfer.

In 2013, with the help of African American historian Alison Rose Jefferson, Heal the Bay joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to amplify and expand their prior Nick Gabaldón efforts. Nick Gabaldón Day, in its current form, is now in its 9th year and will be held on October 9, 2021. This innovative celebration provides an amazing opportunity for broadening outreach, action, and education to connect Angelenos with their cultural, historical, and natural heritage.

RSVP FOR NICK GABALDÓN DAY 2021

The shoreline and waters at Bay Street in Santa Monica were an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular from the 1900s to early 1960s among African American people, who sought to avoid hostile and racial discrimination they might experience at other southland beaches. Racial discrimination and restrictive covenants prevented African Americans from buying property throughout the Los Angeles region, but their community’s presence and agency sustained their oceanfront usage in Santa Monica.

In 2008, the City of Santa Monica officially recognized the “Inkwell” and Nick Gabaldón with a landmark monument at Bay Street and the Oceanfront Walk. In 2019, this same beach was listed as the Bay Street Beach Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the African American experience and American history.

Nick Gabaldón Day introduces young and old from inland communities to the magic of the coast through free surf and ocean safety lessons, beach ecology exploration, and a history lesson about a man who followed his passion and a community who challenged anti-Black discrimination to enjoy the beach.

The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Surf Bus Foundation, and the Santa Monica Conservancy collaborate for Nick Gabaldón Day to reach families in resource-challenged communities and connect them to meaningful educational programming. Together, we are helping build personal experiences with cultural, historical, natural heritage, and civic engagement that make up the foundation of stewardship, and the development of the next generation of heritage conservation and environmental leaders.

Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier will be free for all visitors in honor of Nick on Saturday, October 9 thanks to a grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy and the University of Southern California Surf Team. Celebrity guest reader and Olympian Jamal Hill will pop in for story time and special art activities will be offered, as well as screenings of documentaries exploring issues of race, coastal access, and following your passion against all odds.

Tentative Agenda
Date: October 9, 2021

  • 9 am Welcome Ceremony and Memorial Paddle Out for Nick at Bay Street Beach
  • 10 am – 1 pm Free surf lessons, beach exploration, and cleanup at Bay Street Beach. Surfers must register in advance.
  • 1 pm – 4 pm Celebration continues at Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier; admission to the Aquarium is free today in honor of Nick.
    • 1 pm Documentary screening
    • 2 pm Children’s story time with special guest reader, Olympian Jamal Hill
    • 3 pm Documentary screening

Nick Gabaldón Day 2021 Partners
Black Surfers Collective
Heal the Bay
Surf Bus Foundation
Santa Monica Conservancy

Sponsors
California State Coastal Conservancy
University of Southern California Surf Team

Special Thanks
Swim Up Hill
Outward Bound Adventures
Color the Water
YMCA Crenshaw
Martin Luther King Youth Center

For more information about partnership and sponsorship opportunities please contact: Jeff Williams, Black Surfers Collective, ghettosurfn@gmail.com or Meredith McCarthy, Heal the Bay 310.451.1500 ext. 116 or mmccarthy@healthebay.org.

 



Heal the Bay volunteers picks up mask litter on the beach
Heal the Bay celebra su 32nd aniversario albergando la mayor limpieza voluntaria en el condado de Los Angeles.

La organización medioambiental sin ánimo de lucro Heal the Bay hace una llamada a las personas voluntarias del condado de Los Angeles para que se unan al evento de limpieza más grande del mundo – El mes de la limpieza costera 2021 presentado por Portland Potato Vodka y Ocean Conservancy.

Se anima a los voluntarios y voluntarias a realizar limpiezas de playas y vecindarios por su cuenta durante todo el mes de septiembre, y como punto culminante, a unirse al evento especial del Día de Limpieza Costera (Coastal Cleanup Day) el sábado 18 de septiembre de 9 am a 12 pm en más de 25 sitios costeros, interiores y fluviales en area metropolitana de LA. Tenga en cuenta: para los grupos presenciales del Día de Limpieza Costera el 18 de Septiembre hay un aforo muy limitado debido a las precauciones de salud y seguridad de COVID-19, por lo que serán organizados por estricto orden de llegada. Usted puede saber de antemano cuándo se abre la inscripción para el voluntariado del Día de Limpieza Costera suscribiéndose al Boletín Azul de Heal the Bay.

El Mes de la Limpieza Costera invita a angelinos, angelinas y visitantes de toda la región a recoger basura y desperdicios dañinos y antiestéticos mientras exploran el medio ambiente, disfrutan del aire libre, y participan en un proyecto de ciencia comunitaria. El evento es parte de la Limpieza Costera Internacional que ha movilizado a millones de personas voluntarias por todo el mundo.

El año pasado, el equipo voluntario de Heal the Bay retiró 40,101 piezas de basura de los vecindarios, parques, senderos y playas, y por primera vez en la historia, los equipos de protección personal (máscaras y guantes) estuvieron entre los diez artículos de basura más encontrados en las zonas al aire libre favoritas de Los Angeles.

Las personas voluntarias pueden registrar la basura que encuentran usando la aplicación Clean Swell o manualmente a través de la tarjeta de datos de Heal the Bay. Los datos recopilados durante el Mes de la Limpieza Costera se utilizan para educar e informar a legisladores, administradores de saneamiento y desechos y comunidades sobre los tipos y fuentes de basura que hay en nuestro entorno. Las colillas, los utensilios, envoltorios y botellas de plástico y sus tapas siguen siendo los artículos más comunes que encuentran las personas voluntarias. Otros artículos comunes incluyen bolsas de plástico, popotes de plástico y agitadores, recipientes de plástico para llevar, tapas de plástico y recipientes de espuma para llevar.

Durante los últimos 20 años, los voluntarios y voluntarias de Heal the Bay han eliminado más de 4 millones de piezas de basura y escombros de las playas del condado de Los Angeles. Si bien la limpieza de playas es nuestra última defensa para erradicar la basura en la costa, todavía hay 8 millones de toneladas de plástico que se arrojan a nuestros océanos cada año. Eso equivale a un camión de basura lleno cada minuto. Heal the Bay exige una acción estatal para abordar esta crisis de contaminación y aboga por políticas y prácticas que reduzcan el plástico en el origen.

El Mes de la limpieza costera de Heal the Bay 2021 es posible gracias al apoyo de Portland Potato Vodka, Ocean Conservancy, la Comisión Costera de California, Water for LA, la ciudad de Santa Mónica y TIME TO ACT Entertainment.

Se recuerda la participación de manera segura seleccionando un lugar accesible, usando una máscara cuando estén en público, usando guantes al manipular la basura y participando solamente cuando gocen de buena salud para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de COVID-19. El aforo para el evento de Heal the Bay el 18 de septiembre es limitado debido a las precauciones de salud y seguridad, razón por la cual desde Heal the Bay se alienta a los voluntarios y voluntarias a participar en limpiezas autoguiadas durante todo el mes.

El programa completo de eventos se irá actualizando continuamente y se puede encontrar en:
healthebay.org/coastalcleanupmonth


Acerca del Mes de Limpieza Costera

Heal the Bay es el coordinador oficial del Día de Limpieza Costera y el Mes de Limpieza Costera en el condado de Los Angeles en asociación con la Comisión Costera de California y Ocean Conservancy. La organización sin ánimo de lucro busca personas voluntarias de todas las edades y capacidades físicas para participar; no se necesita formación ni experiencia. Los organizadores animan a los voluntarios y voluntarias a “BYO” (traer sus propios baldes, bolsas reutilizables y guantes reutilizables para recoger la basura). Los suministros de limpieza están disponibles bajo pedido y por orden de llegada.

Acerca de Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay es la organización medioambiental sin ánimo de lucro líder en el condado de Los Ángeles y está dedicada a proteger las aguas costeras y las cuencas hidrográficas. La organización tiene una historia de 36 años en el uso de la ciencia, la educación, la defensa y la acción comunitaria para proteger el agua limpia. El grupo realiza dos limpiezas de playa por día de media. Heal the Bay también emite calificaciones de calidad del agua para cientos de playas de California cada semana a través del Beach Report Card con NowCast, proporciona calificaciones semanales de calidad del agua para docenas de áreas de agua dulce con el River Report Card, educa a miles de estudiantes locales cada año y opera el galardonado Heal the Bay Aquarium. Visite healthebay.org para obtener más información.



Large plumes of smoke rise from the Woolsey Fire burning in Malibu, California. Camera angle is looking across Santa Monica Bay towards Malibu and Santa Monica Mountains.

Wildfires rage in California year after year, with increasing frequency and intensity. This is driven by the climate crisis creating hot, dry conditions for wildfires to start, spread, and burn out of control. Spring comes earlier, melting snow more quickly, and reducing water availability during summer, which is lasting longer with more extreme temperatures. Less frequent but more intense rain along with with the extra snowmelt in spring triggers vegetation growth; then the long, hot summers dry out that vegetation, covering the state with kindling. These climate impacts, coupled with a systemic departure from smart tribal land management practices like controlled burns, leaves us setting new wildfire records every single year, destroying ecosystems and devastating communities. 

2021 has been the worst wildfire season to date, with over 1.5 million acres burned across California already, and the season has just begun. So far this year, the Pacific Northwest has felt the brunt of this wildfire season, but Los Angeles is not out of the woods. The fire season for Southern California typically spans October through December, which is why Los Angeles officials urge residents to be prepared 

Wildfires, particularly the extreme events that we are experiencing more and more each year, have both immediate and long-term impacts on the health of people and the environment. But did you know that wildfires also impact the health of our waterways? Heal the Bay interviewed two experts this week on the impacts of wildfires on public health and on water quality.  


We learned a lot from these experts. By removing vegetation, wildfires increase sediment and pollution runoff, which can affect both recreational and drinking water. Wildfires also release smoke pollution into our atmosphere with contaminants that are harmful to public health. These airborne contaminants eventually settle out onto surfaces like streets, sidewalks, and rooftops, where they remain until stormwater washes it all into our waterways. Scroll down to find links to these recorded interviews or to check out the transcripts for both of these conversations.  

We urge you to take climate action now, whether through global systemic change, or directly in your home or your neighborhood to prepare for emergencies and make your community more climate resilient. Take the climate challenge with us – start by picking one action you can take today. But don’t stop there! Consider the skills, experiences, and resources you have to offer, and create a personal list of climate actions.  

One action you can take right now is to sign up and join Heal the Bay virtually at 6 PM on Monday August 30th to learn about the Cool City Challenge, and how to become a Cool Block Leader to make real change in your neighborhood to tackle the climate crisis.  

Thick layer of smog and haze from nearby brush fire obscuring the view of downtown Los Angeles buildings in Southern California.   Shot from hilltop in popular Griffith Park.

INSTAGRAM LIVE INTERVIEWS: ASK AN EXPERT 

1: What impacts do wildfires have on water quality, and what are the solutions? 

 

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Host: Alex Preso (Manager of Outreach, Heal the Bay) 

Expert: Marisol Cira (Graduate Researcher in Civil and Environmental Engineering, UCLA) 

Alex: Please introduce yourself and provide a little background on some of the work you do. 

Marisol: I am a graduate researcher at UCLA in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, where I study the impacts of wildfires on beach water quality. 

Alex: How does a wildfire impact water quality, specifically in the Ocean? 

Marisol: Wildfires remove vegetation and alter the soil. When it rains, the vegetation and the soil that remain can no longer filter and retain the water like they used to. This increases the sediment and runoff that carry harmful contaminants and eventually make their way into our reservoirs, rivers, and oceans.  

Alex: That is definitely not ideal! Would that have any impact on our freshwater and drinking water, too? 

Marisol: Yes, wildfires do impact both recreational and drinking water quality. For example, they contaminate our groundwater because the contaminants can reach the water table, and the loss of vegetation can affect the aquifer recharge. In addition, the amount of sediment and runoff that flows into our reservoirs increases the maintenance needs and costs for that reservoir. Similarly, for our drinking water treatment plants, they might have to change operations to meet the water quality standards, and that also increases cost. Lastly, the contaminants that reach the beaches can be harmful to beachgoers and to wildlife.  

Alex: Would you mind expanding on what kind of contaminants those are, and how they end up getting into our water? 

Marisol: Studies have reported increases in nutrients, metals, water temperature, and turbidity, among other things. Following the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which burned approximately 100,000 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains, researchers reported increases in fecal indicator bacteria at beaches in Malibu. Although the fecal indicator bacteria are not harmful themselves, monitoring agencies do use them to indicate the presence of pathogens in water. What may be happening is that the wildfires, and the debris flows that follow, damage and disrupt the sewage infrastructure which contaminates downstream water quality with fecal matter. And, as mentioned earlier, the vegetation and the soil can no longer filter and retain these contaminants.  

Alex: Heal the Bay tracks water quality testing at over 500 beaches statewide. Are wildfires impacting water quality right now?  

Marisol: Water quality may return to normal within hours, or it could take up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the burn, the precipitation, and the contaminants. Specifically for fecal indicator bacteria, researchers reported elevated levels for up to 6 months. However, these levels are still being monitored as the burn area recovers.  

Alex: I’ll give you a few more minutes to talk a little bit more about the research that you are doing, and the recent findings.  

Marisol: We saw increases in the fecal indicator bacteria and turbidity following the Woolsey Fire, specifically after rain events, which is a concern for the health of beachgoers and wildlife. We hope that this research is able to help agencies protect our oceans and treat these contaminants.   

Alex: Do you have any advice on how other people can get involved? 

Marisol: Wildfire activity has increased globally and here in the Western US due to climate change. The frequency, duration, and season length are longer. It is important that we support candidates and measures that address climate change, and that we do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint. 

2: How is this unprecedented wildfire season impacting watersheds and public health? 

 

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Host: Kayleigh Wade (Associate Director of Campaigns and Outreach, Heal the Bay) 

Expert: Gilmar Flores (Senior Manager of Programs and Research, Breathe Southern California) 

Kayleigh: Please introduce yourself. What’s your name, and what is your role at Breathe Southern California?  

Gilmar: Thank you so much for having me on today. Hello everyone, my name is Gilmar Flores and I am the Senior Manager of Programs and Research at Breathe Southern California.   

Kayleigh: What is Breathe Southern California’s mission? Can you give us a quick run-down of your organization? 

 Gilmar: Breathe Southern California is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to promote clean air and healthy lungs. We do that through education, research, technology, and advocacy. Our organization has over 50 programs that target with our mission of clean air and healthy lungs. We offer this through youth programs in regards to asthma, environmental factors, and vaping; and through community programs in regards to wildfires, asthma, and lung disease. We also have a professional membership society called the Trudeau Society, where professionals in the field can attend lectures and network.  

Kayleigh: That is important information to know. Every year we have a wildfire season, so thank you for sharing those resources. How does wildfire smoke play a role in the air pollution problems facing Southern California?  

Gilmar: Back in 2019, California was home to 15 of the 30 places in the United States with the worst air pollution. Out of those 15, San Diego ranked #10; Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim ranked #6; and Riverside and San Bernardino ranked #2. On an average day, the air quality index of these cities in Southern California were in the moderate levels. For those who do not know what the air quality index is, it is an index that ranges from good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous. So if you think about that, an average day in those cities were not even in the good section of air quality. We’re in the moderate section. So when wildfires burn within 50 or 100 miles of those cities, it causes the air quality to be 5 to 15 times worse than normal, and often 2 to 3 times worse than normal even on a non-fire day. So during these wildfire seasons, the air quality index in these parts of the country can reach hazardous levels, which are very unhealthy not only for the vulnerable populations, but for everyone.  

Kayleigh: What is the connection between environmental injustices, public health, and wildfires?  

Gilmar: There are a lot of connections, but one that I will cover today is the resource availability that these vulnerable populations tend not to have. One example that I will focus on is asthma. During fires, air quality management districts will urge people to stay inside with windows closed and doors closed until smoke levels subside. This is mainly targeted to vulnerable populations such as the elderly, those who have respiratory illness or cardiovascular illness, and also for children. But the problem is that keeping the windows and doors closed only helps if your windows and doors can actually close and keep the smoke out. There are blocks of old apartment complexes, either in Los Angeles, Riverside, or the Bay Area where smoke still comes through, and some of these complexes do not have installed ventilation systems that can help remove the indoor toxins from these settings. We know that in low-income communities, there tends to be a lot of chronic disease, like asthma. So these communities are usually more effected by the wildfire seasons. There are more examples. If we had more time, we could talk about native American tribes located in areas where fires are more prominent. We could also talk about farm workers in Ventura County who are exposed. They still have to work during wildfires, and don’t always have the proper masks while working, so cannot avoid the harms of wildfire smoke.  

Kayleigh: More often than not, people do not have access to those resources, especially in low income communities and communities of color. What are some tools you would recommend to promote wildfire resilience?  

Gilmar: There are several steps you can take to keep your family or yourself safe during wildfire seasons. But the primary way to be resilient would be to stop yourself from breathing smoke, especially when there is a wildfire nearby. A few steps that you can take is to check air quality. You can use websites such as https://fire.airnow.gov to check the air quality, avoid going outside, close windows and doors, run the AC for circulation and check the filtration, use air purifiers at home if possible, avoid frying foods while inside, wear N-95 masks (don’t just buy is and have it there – when you purchase it, test it out and make sure it fits well and covers your whole face), be aware of any evacuation orders, and be prepared to evacuate.  

Kayleigh: What are the long-term impacts of pollution from wildfires on communities that are already impacted by environmental racism?  

Gilmar: These communities are already experiencing health hazard burdens by just living near landfills, power stations, and major roads. They often struggle with contaminated water supply or elevated airborne particulate matter. And then these communities are exposed to longer harsher air conditions because of wildfires.  We see a correlation between these kinds of environmental exposures and cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes, pulmonary disease such as lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema, pneumonia exasperated among children and the elderly, low birth weights, and premature deaths. 

Kayleigh: That information is very heavy, but thank you for sharing it. It is very helpful to pair that knowledge with the industrial activity that is happening in these communities. What types of pollutants, specifically, are found in wildfire smoke and ash?   

Gilmar: When wood and other organic materials burn in wildfires, it produces a mixture of fine particulate matter and dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, or volatile organic compounds. One of the major pollutants found in wildfire smoke is particulate matter (P.M. 2.5), which is a mixture of tiny solid and liquid droplets suspended in the air, which can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. The concern is that these particles, which make up most of the plume of smoke from wildfires, can get deep into the lungs and cause biological damage. Particulates can also effect the cardiovascular system by causing inflammation, and can also effect the nervous system. Some of the smallest particles can even cross into the blood stream and travel through other parts of your body effecting other organs.  

 Kayleigh: At some point after a wildfire, the atmosphere eventually clears out. But just as throwing away a piece of trash does not actually mean that it is gone, all of that pollution must remain in our environment in some way. Where does all of that pollution go?   

Gilmar: Unfortunately, the pollution will eventually fall down to the ground. It’s going to fall onto the floors of our homes, onto vehicles, buildings, trees, and plants. It can even extend far beyond where the fire was actually burning. As an example, I visited Crater Lake up in Oregon back in 2019, and from the top of that mountain we could see the smoke from California crossing over, because it does not have any boundaries. So this pollution definitely will fall onto the ground and will either disburse into the soil or into water, and eventually make its way out to the ocean, effecting not only plant life but also the wildlife that lives in the ocean.  

 Kayleigh: It’s so important to remember that everything is connected, and there are no boundaries. Pollution will remain in our environment and continue to impact our health. What long-term effects does wildfire smoke have on the ability of our communities to be resilient to the climate crisis?   

Gilmar: Wildfires will have far reaching impacts and effects and will ripple through communities as climate change continues to occur. Habitats will continue to get damaged, both on land and also in to sea. Air quality will be degraded, causing long term health impacts not only for us humans, but also for other animals. There will also be drinking water supply contamination. However, communities can still employ a number of strategies to be more resilient to wildfires. This includes zoning and building policies, landscape regulations, vegetation and forestry management, and public education and preparedness campaigns.   

Kayleigh: Is there anything else you’d like to add or talk about that we didn’t already cover? 

Gilmar: Extreme wildfires are becoming a yearly thing, especially here in the west. There are a few websites that I want to mention so all of you can be prepared, not only for those who suffer from a  lung disease, but for everyone, especially if you have loved ones who do. A good website to follow is https://fire.airnow.gov, which provides you the air quality map index and smoke information when there are fires. It will show you what the air quality index is at that time and lets you know if you need to close the windows and stay inside. Another website is https://ww2.arb.ca.gov. They provide a lot of resources there. I know a lot of individuals do not have the luxury of owning an air purifier, so they provide examples of things you can do to still improve indoor air quality in your home during wildfire season. And you can follow Breathe SoCal on our social media platforms for awareness, and for additional information for workshops on lung disease, asthma, or environmental stewardship. 

Kayleigh: We actually have a question from the audience: Do either of you know why, in California, there isn’t more fire prevention even though it’s become a yearly phenomenon.  

Gilmar: There are preventative measures taken. Some examples include energy companies like SoCal Edison providing grants to non-profit organizations to provide those resources to communities. But one of the things that definitely has to happen is for folks to speak to elected officials and share your ideas, possibly for future legislation.  

Kayleigh: There is definitely a need for infrastructure and a need for policy if we want to be more resilient as a community as the climate crisis accelerates.   

 



At Heal the Bay Aquarium, we believe that there are 52 Shark Weeks in a year, so we’re keeping all the #SharkWeek learning going. It’s important to share and teach facts, not fear, as we all work towards protecting our ocean environment and the animals that call it home. Shark conservation is a 24/7 job, so let’s continue this deep dive into learning more about these critically important, and often misunderstood, creatures.

California is known for its incredible richness and variety of ecosystems—both on land and under the sea. Venture across the Golden State and you’ll cross coastal wetlands, lush wooded forests, and the vast deserts in Death Valley. Dive below the waters off our coastline and see the fairytale-like beauty of our kelp forests, the infinite expansiveness of the sandy seafloor, and the rocky shore dynamics of our tide pools. From abalone, to sea lions, hermit crabs to Mola mola, there is a wealth of marine diversity right in our Bay.

So, who are our elasmobranch neighbors? In our local waters, there are at least 23 different kinds of sharks, and over a dozen types of rays and skates (the triangular-shaped Rajidae—not the retro kind spotted weaving down the boardwalk). Wade into our shallower waters and you may see the slim, spotted shadow of a leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) sashay by, on the hunt for crustaceans and clams on the sandy bottom. Head out a little further with the surfers and you may even get the rare, incredible opportunity to spot our resident (albeit juvenile) landlord: the great white shark (Carcharodon Carcharias). From long-tailed thresher sharks, to the chiropteran-like bat rays, you never know what you’ll “sea” when you explore our coast. At our Aquarium, we exhibit marine species that you can find right next door in Santa Monica Bay. Learning about these local animals allows our visitors to see what our clean water mission is all about: not only protecting public health, but also protecting the thousands of different kinds of marine life that call it home—from seabirds and fish, to marine mammals and phytoplankton—all are part of the southern California ecosystem.

Let’s meet the locals in our Sharks & Rays Exhibit!

image IMG_7419 Swell Shark_ Cephaloscyllium ventriosum_mike bartick (1)
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Swell sharks (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) are a visitor favorite because when you’re observing them in the exhibit, you’re now in the “Splash Zone”, due to the fact that they literally spit water while they swim around. They’re so aptly named because when agitated, swell sharks will hold on to their caudal fin with their teeth and swell up with water, making it more difficult for predators to bite them or pull them from their rocky den. Ever seen a Mermaid’s Purse? Swell sharks are also oviparous, which means they lay keratinous egg cases. Developing swell shark pups take about 9-12 months until they’re ready to hatch into adorable, 6 inch (15 cm) long baby sharks. Check out Baby Shark Watch to see a swell shark grow from egg to pup!

Horn sharks (Heterodontus francisci), are named for the large horns in front of each dorsal fin. These horns are used for protection against predators, making horn sharks extremely difficult to eat. Imagine trying to swallow a sandwich with the toothpicks still holding it together—you’d have a pretty hard time getting that down. These oviparous sharks also have a uniquely shaped mouth that allows them to “suck” in food and forage through sand for a tasty crab or some other buried seafloor invertebrate. The scientific name Heterodontus comes from the Greek words “heteros” and “odont”, meaning “different teeth”. Horn sharks have sharp pointy teeth in the front, and crushing molar-like teeth in the back. This is why they’re one of the few shark species that can actually eat a spiky sea urchin (sometimes staining their teeth with the urchin pigment).

Round stingrays (Urobatis halleri), lovingly known as “sea pancakes” by our visiting students, are commonly found in sandy bottom habitats, and typically hang around intertidal areas down to depths of about 15 m (50 ft). Stingrays are viviparous (live birth), and will have between 1-6 pups that are about the size of the palm of your hand (2.5-3 inches or 6-7.5 cm).

To the right, to the right…to the left, to the left…now shuffle! Ever heard of the Stingray Shuffle? It’s actually the best way to protect both yourself and unsuspecting stingrays that may be camouflaging in the sandy bottom below you when you head into the waves. If you slide or shuffle your feet in the sand as you enter and move about the ocean, rays will feel the movement from your feet, and will move somewhere else to avoid contact. If you walk in normally (especially around this time of year during stingray mating season), you may accidentally step on a ray, which will then defend itself by using the venomous barb on their tail. The venom of the round stingray is not dangerous to humans; however, it is extremely painful. If stung by a ray, the best course of action is to seek help from the nearest Lifeguard, and soak the affected area in very hot water. This actually denatures the proteins in the venom, and will hopefully help provide some relief from the sting. This is also the best treatment for sea jelly stings, since contrary to popular myth (and TV sitcoms), peeing on the jelly sting can actually make the pain worse!


During our closure throughout 2020, we were busy at work refreshing our exhibits and creating fun, new experiences for our visitors for when we could safely reopen. We o-fish-ally re-opened our indoor gallery on June 12, 2021, and visitors can now enjoy our upgraded, interactive Sharks & Rays Touch Tank Exhibit! Get up close and feel the sandpapery touch of a swell shark’s skin from their dermal denticles (“tooth-skin”), or the velvety softness of a round stingray. Gentle interactions with these animals helps to dispel long-held myths about sharks being scary, mindless, man-eaters.

Lurking. Stalking. Chasing. Attack. These are all familiar (and unfairly given) terms when we see any news about encounters between humans and sharks. Sharks have been around on this planet for at least 400 million years. They’re a keystone species, which means as apex (top) predators, sharks are critically important to a healthy ecosystem and marine food web. Just like the tumbling of a Jenga tower when we pull out a single, structural-load holding piece, the removal of sharks can decimate the delicate balance of the ocean environment. We’ve seen the same impacts on land ecosystems with the human-led removal of wolves from Yellowstone National Park. Without these apex predators keeping elk populations in check, the land suffered from erosion and deforestation—affecting more than 200 other species of animals living in that ecosystem. Sharks usually take a long time to reproduce, and most don’t have that may young at a time. Female great white sharks usually aren’t even sexually mature for at least 1-2 decades, and their young take more than a year to gestate. Sharks are already vulnerable to the impacts of pollution and climate change, and data shows that worldwide shark populations have declined by almost 99% due to the additional stress of overfishing.

So, what can we do to help protect sharks? One super easy way is to spread facts, not fear. Even though encountering sharks in the wild can still be a scary thought, sharks have no desire to eat us (honestly—do we really think we taste that good?). Sharks are actually probably much more afraid of you than you are of them, and when they encounter people, their usual reaction is to swim away, hide, or out of simple curiosity just check out this silly-looking animal scooting around the water. Being conscientious about sustainable seafood choices, and going zero-waste and plastic-free as much as possible can go a long way towards shark protections. Destructive fishing methods not only cause habitat loss, but harms millions of sharks each year as bycatch. Just looking at the Pacific Ocean alone, an estimated 3.3 million sharks are accidentally caught each year as bycatch on longlines that were targeted for other fish. Supporting bans on shark fin products and shark finning can also add protections to critically declining shark populations, because we can eliminate the market for fins by passing laws prohibiting their sale. Globally, at least 70-100 million sharks are killed each year just for the inhumane shark fin trade. Heal the Bay, along with partners and supporters, successfully led the charge to ban the sale and possession of shark fins in California in 2013. Right now, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 737) is still waiting for a vote in the Senate. The House passed this bill in November 2019, and the bill would “prohibit the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States”. Your voice and action can help protect what we all love. Helping to teach others about the importance of sharks is a great way to help change the way people think about sharks. For the record, we think they’re “swell”.

Learn more about shark conservation with these great organizations and researchers:


Citations:

  • https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-fix-jellyfish-sting-180963582/#:~:text=And%20before%20you%20ask%3A%20no,consistent%20chemical%20makeup%2C%20she%20says
  • https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/737/text



On the heels of the 17-million-gallon sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay on July 11-12, Heal the Bay and the World Surf League—two Santa Monica-based organizations—are partnering to expand Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card with NowCast to give beachgoers more information, more swiftly, about potential risks from poor ocean water quality at California’s most popular beaches and surf spots.

Heal the Bay and the World Surf League (WSL) are announcing a multi-year partnership in support of Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, activating local surfers to protect the health of 150 million beachgoers in California, and increasing surfing community outreach through social media and local competition events in California.

Summer is here, temperatures are hot, and more people are flocking to the beach. With roughly a thousand miles of shoreline, California has one of the longest and also most diverse coasts of any state in the USA. California offers an incredible array and variety of beaches and waves. Several offer pristine bays with 30-feet visibility underwater, others iconic views and world class waves.

While the waves may look clear, many beachgoers have no idea they might be swimming in a bacteria-polluted area, especially near piers, storm drains, and enclosed harbors with poor water circulation. One in 25 beachgoers will get sick swimming or surfing in polluted water near a flowing storm drain. Youth and seniors are particularly vulnerable to illnesses related to bacterial pollution.

“As a surfer, I have spent a ton of time in the water since I was a little kid. The water quality at my local beaches is something I have always been observant of. Unfortunately, there have been many times where the water quality has seemed very low and I’ve gotten sick from surfing in dirty water. I’m thrilled the World Surf League is partnering with Heal the Bay on the Beach Report Card for California. Everyone deserves access to clean water to surf, swim, and enjoy this precious resource – our one ocean!” says Conner Coffin, WSL Championship Tour surfer.

OAHU, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 11: Conner Coffin of the United States is eliminated from the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters with an equal 17th finish after placing second in Heat 2 of Round 3 at Pipeline on December 11, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL via Getty Images)

The Beach Report Card is Heal the Bay’s education, advocacy, and public health notification tool for people concerned about the water quality at their favorite beaches across the state of California. The latest beach water quality grades are displayed alongside historical trends. The program also has science and policy initiatives to improve water quality, advance water quality testing methods, and ensure beachgoers have equitable and immediate access to beach water quality information through environmental and public health legislation and regulation.

Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO & President says, “We’re excited to announce our partnership with the World Surf League. Clean ocean water has multiple benefits. It sustains healthy ecosystems and thriving wildlife, it mitigates impacts from the climate crisis, and it provides a safe place to enjoy the outdoors and cool off. We thank our partners at the World Surf League for working together with us to protect clean water starting in Santa Monica, stretching up and down the California coastline, and rippling out globally.”

The World Surf League is sponsoring the Beach Report Card for three-years, supporting the popular Annual Report, which highlights the coveted Honor Roll list as well as the notorious Beach Bummers list. The World Surf League is also investing in the growth of NowCast, Heal the Bay’s daily water quality prediction program.

“The WSL is incredibly proud to partner with Heal the Bay to provide tools and resources such as the Beach Report Card for all ocean lovers to be informed about water quality prior to heading to their favorite beach. As a global sports league, the future of our sport depends on a healthy ocean. Our focus as a league is to protect the ocean and beaches by inspiring climate action, preventing pollution, and conserving our coasts through campaigns like We Are One Ocean,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO.

Heal the Bay is expanding NowCast to include 40-50 beaches over the next three years.

the logo for Beach Report Card with NowCast

About Heal the Bay and the Beach Report Card

Heal the Bay is an environmental nonprofit dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds in Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy, and clean. We use science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill our mission.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is the only comprehensive analysis of coastline water quality in California. We provide water quality grades for more than 700 beaches weekly from Washington to Mexico during the peak beach-going season, with approximately 500 locations in California. Each location is assigned an A to F grade based on the health risks of swimming, surfing, and entering the water at that location.

The Beach Report Card is available for free at BeachReportCard.org and as an app on iPhone and Android devices.

NARRABEEN, AUS - APRIL 20: Conner Coffin of the United States surfing in Heat 3 of the Quarterfinals of the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona on April 20, 2021 in Narrabeen, Australia. (Photo by Matt Dunbar/World Surf League via Getty Images)

About the WSL 

Established in 1976, the World Surf League is the home of the world’s best surfing. A global sports, media and entertainment company, the WSL oversees international tours and competitions, a studios division creating over 500+ hours of live and on-demand content, and via affiliate WaveCo, the home of the world’s largest high performance, human-made wave. Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, the WSL has regional offices in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and EMEA. The WSL is dedicated to changing the world through the inspirational power of surfing by creating authentic events, experiences, and storytelling to inspire a growing, global community to live with purpose, originality, and stoke.

For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.