On December 3, 2021 our local water agency leaders gathered together to discuss the major water challenges impacting Greater Los Angeles and how to solve them at Heal the Bay’s first-ever ONE Water Day event.
ONE Water Day at Will Rogers State Beach
The sun was shining, the DJ was playing the hits, and our Heal the Bay team was setting up for a cleanup (while dancing in the sand) as we welcomed over 200 attendees to a first-of-its-kind networking opportunity at Will Rogers State Beach. ONE Water Day brought together many prominent heads of local government agencies and engineering companies to meet and discuss the future of water in Los Angeles. There were more than 26 different organizations represented at this networking event, sparking countless partnerships, and raising over $120,000 for Heal the Bay.
ONE Water Day attendees participated in a scavenger hunt to clean the beach and experience what trash and debris ends up at our beaches from all over our local watersheds.
After guests had time to mix and mingle, the day started off with a land acknowledgement to recognize the Tongva and Chumash tribal ancestral lands where the event was being held. Then attendees were invited to participate in a Heal the Bay scavenger hunt for trash. This hands-on and team-oriented beach cleanup was an opportunity for individuals from different organizations to collaborate and observe first-hand the realities of pollution.
In just 30 minutes, 19 teams collected 200 buckets of trash along two miles of the Pacific Palisades coastline. Amongst an eclectic array of waste, more than 600 cigarette butts were collected, with Team 12 taking home first place prizes for the most items captured.
After the cleanup, a panini lunch was served by the fantastic team of Critic’s Choice Catering, giving attendees a chance to recharge and enjoy the many event exhibitors and perfect beach weather on a winter day.
ONE Water Day Panel, guest speakers from left to right; Martin Adams, Robert Ferrante, Adel Hagekhalil, Dr. Shelley Luce (host), Mark Pestrella, Barbara Romero, Dave Pedersen.
Next on the agenda was a panel conversation hosted by Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO and President. The panel guest speakers included six influential leaders speaking on the topic of Los Angeles water. All were eager to discuss systemic water quality issues, the impacts of climate change, and the cooperative solutions they envision for Los Angeles.
Speakers included: Adel Hagekhalil, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California;Barbara Romero, Director and General Manager, LA Sanitation and Environment; Robert Ferrante, Chief Engineer and General Manager, Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts; Dave Pedersen, General Manager, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District; Martin Adams, General Manager and Chief Engineer, LA Department of Water and Power; Mark Pestrella, Director of LA County Public Works.
Energy was high and the feeling was hopeful as the ONE Water Day panel shared their visions for the future. Guest speakers from left to right; Adel Hagekhalil, Dr. Shelley Luce (host), Mark Pestrella, Barbara Romero.
Takeaways from the ONE Water Panel from Dr. Shelly Luce
ONE Water Day was a unique event. The panel was a rare honor and opportunity to question each of the guest speakers on their plans for building a sustainable water supply for Los Angeles in this time of extreme drought and climate change.
We learned so much from our panel speakers at the event. The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and the Department of Water and Power are collaborating to recycle treated wastewater for drinking water. The LA County Sanitation Districts and the Las Virgenes Metropolitan Water District are doing the same in their respective areas, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. And, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is collaborating with cities throughout the region to capture and treat urban runoff, aka stormwater, so it can be infiltrated into groundwater or reused for irrigation.
This massive shift to conserving and recycling our water has taken place incrementally over decades. It requires a level of collaboration among agencies that has never occurred before.
Adel Hagekhalil, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District, stated it perfectly:
“We take water for granted, and we forget that water is essential to firefighting, to drinking, to our health and our safety; hospitals don’t run without water. Fire cannot be fought without water. Businesses cannot run without water Schools cannot be schools without water. Homelessness cannot be addressed without water. So, water is life,” Hagekhalil said. “Sometimes we’re willing to pay $200 for our cell phone, but are we willing to pay that money for the future of our water?”
To demonstrate this commitment, Hagekhalil asked everyone at the event to stand and pledge to work every day toward the ONE Water goals. All did so, willingly and enthusiastically. It was a great moment for all of us who care deeply about our sustainable water future to affirm our commitment.
A huge thank you to the amazing ONE Water Day Sponsors, our proud partners of Heal the Bay, and organizations that are leading the way in their commitment to environmental sustainability:
Los Angeles has major water challenges to solve, and Heal the Bay sees events like this as an opportunity to upload the value of collaboration and accountability, to continue conversations that lead to solutions, and to create opportunities for partnerships like never before. This Heal the Bay event is the first of its kind for our organization, but is certainly not the last.
Want to support our ongoing efforts for for One Water? Donate Here
It’s hard to believe that it has been just over a year since the LA Times broke the shocking story of large-scale and widespread dumping of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) waste in the deep waters of the San Pedro Basin, off the coast of Southern California, prior to about 1960. The dumping of DDT took place in unceded Tongva, Acjachemen, and Kizh ancestral waters.
The revelation of this extensive, deep-water dumping by UCSB scientist Dr. Valentine and story by LA Times environmental reporter Rosanna Xia horrified even those of us who have worked for decades on the well-known DDT Superfund site in shallower waters off the coast of Los Angeles, in the Palos Verdes shelf. However, this deep-water dumpsite was a lesser-known piece of the toxic legacy of DDT production by the Montrose Chemical Company in Torrance.
DDT, a legacy pesticide, is known to have devastating and long-lasting impacts on wildlife, ecosystems, and human health.
DDT was produced by Montrose from 1943-1983 at their Torrance factory, with much of their DDT-contaminated waste dumped into the sewer system and eventually released in the waters of the Palos Verdes shelf, off the coast of Los Angeles. This created the largest underwater Superfund site in the United States. Stormwater runoff from the factory contaminated the Dominguez Channel and Port of LA too, both of which remain poisoned to this day. And, over the last year we learned that DDT-waste was also taken in barges far offshore and dumped in the deep ocean.
DDT is an especially devastating chemical because it never goes away. It gets into ocean animals and concentrates as it moves up the food chain. It harms untold numbers of fish, marine mammals, and birds, as well as people who rely on fishing to feed themselves and their families.
There are still many questions that need to be answered about the nature and extent of DDT contamination in the deep ocean. We must discover the hard truth about how it continues to poison our ecosystems, including people and marine life.
Since the LA Times article came out, there have been some steps in the right direction but much more needs to be done. Options for removal or mitigation must be explored. The health of people who eat local seafood, especially subsistence fishers, must be protected. Companies that caused the pollution must be held accountable, and government agencies that oversee research and cleanup must be proactive in their work. Above all, the public must be engaged and informed on progress clearly and frequently.
Led by Senators Feinstein and Padilla, the federal government has a proposed earmark of $5.6 million for NOAA, UC Santa Barbara, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography to study the San Pedro Basin deep-water DDT dump site. This is a great start but is not finalized yet and is only about half the amount needed to conduct a comprehensive assessment.
Further, research, mitigation, and cleanup efforts must be approached collaboratively at all levels of government to begin to understand and address this natural disaster as the implications for environmental and public health are far-reaching.
Sign this petition urging Governor Newsom and the California Senate and Assembly to commit, at a minimum, $5.6 M in the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year State budget to match the proposed federal funding allocated to DDT. The State of California permitted this dumping and needs to dedicate resources to tackling this disaster in collaboration with federal agencies.
This is a developing story and we will update information as new details come to light.
UPDATE: 3:00 pm Pacific Time on April 13, 2022.
According to a new Daily Breeze article, “42 million gallons of sewage entered LA waterways in past 15 years. More than half of the total was spilled in 2021 alone. A nearly catastrophic disaster at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant and the sudden collapse of a sewer system in Carson last year combined to make it the worst since the beginning of the data set in April 2007. The two spills, roughly six months and 15 miles apart, led to the total release of 25 million gallons of raw sewage either directly into the ocean or into waterways that empty into it.”
It’s been nearly 8 months since the massive sewage spill from the Hyperion Treatment Plant and two key updates occurred recently.
First, we recently learned that Hyperion Treatment Plant has not been complying with air quality standards since the spill. This is alarming news considering that the plant emits greenhouse gasses hundreds of times more potent than carbon dioxide. While Hyperion is no longer discharging under-treated sewage into the ocean, the environmental impact of the sewage spill continues. We urge regulators to take prompt action and ensure Hyperion’s air emissions are in compliance.
Second, The City of Los Angeles, Board of Public Works assembled an advisory committee composed of government officials, academics, and NGO representatives. Our very own CEO, Shelley Luce, was on the committee. The committee was tasked with conducting an independent assessment of the spill, and their findings were recently released in February in a report along with recommendations for minimizing sewage spill risk in the future.
The report found that a series of missteps led to the sewage spill rather than a single sudden influx of debris that inundated Hyperion’s machinery, which was the original theory. Here is the series of events as we understand them:
The machines (bar screens) that Hyperion uses to remove trash and large items from our waste water became clogged because some of that trash was allowed to cycle back through those machines due to a design failure. It is also important to note that trash should not be flushed down the toilet.
When the trash removal machines became clogged, alarms were triggered, but they were not responded to in time and Hyperion’s headworks facility (building where trash is removed from our wastewater) began to flood.
Once the flooding began, it was too dangerous for workers to open an underground bypass channel that could have relieved the flooding. Opening this channel required workers to lift a large metal barrier out of the ground using a ceiling-mounted crane.
The sewage flowed to other parts of Hyperion, damaging critical equipment and systems, which further hampered their ability to respond to the situation.
Hyperion’s storm drain system, which feeds into the 1-mile ocean outfall, was eventually filled with sewage, resulting in 13 million gallons of sewage spilling into Santa Monica Bay.
The report recommended the following improvements and next steps:
Upgrade the trash removal equipment to reduce or eliminate the chance that trash is sent back through the machinery once it has already been removed from the wastewater.
Improve the alarm functionality by designing an alarm that will be immediately noticed.
Conduct additional staff training and revise protocols for alarm and flooding response.
Conduct additional recruitment to fill jobs in the headworks facility, which is where the flooding began.
We appreciate the creation of this report and we support its recommendations for improvements to Hyperion’s systems and processes. Heal the Bay’s additional recommendations for next steps in light of the report are:
Integrate the advisory committee report recommendations with the 30-day report (initial report released 30 days after the spill) recommendations. We need the findings from both reports combined so that all the information and data for the spill is in one place. Information on impacts to the public (e.g. beach closures, odors, public health impacts, economic impacts) as well as water and air quality violations should be included. And, this will help create one cohesive plan for improving Hyperion.
Prioritize the recommendations from both reports based on their significance and/or ease of correction. And each recommended action should be accompanied by a realistic timeline in which it can be addressed.
Provide stakeholders and the public with regular progress updates as improvements are made to the plant. At the very least, the Hyperion Recovery website should remain active and should be updated with such progress reports.
Heal the Bay is committed to working with LA City Public Works and Sanitation (as well as other agencies and groups) to make sure that the report recommendations are addressed promptly to protect the health and safety of Hyperion’s workers as well as the general public and the environment. Implementation of the recommendations along with the rebuilding of public trust will be paramount as Hyperion transitions to full wastewater recycling by 2035. This transition means that Hyperion will no longer discharge treated water to the ocean, but will instead recycle 100% of its water to provide for a reliable and local source of water in the face of ongoing drought and climate change impacts. Heal the Bay is a strong supporter of this effort to reduce our reliance on imported water as well as reduce impacts to the ocean – we will be tracking the issue closely to ensure that public health is prioritized along with sustainability.
UPDATE: 10:30 am Pacific Time on November 2, 2021.
We have some promising news regarding the Hyperion Treatment Plant. For the past few months, the plant has been operating in a diminished capacity due to the damage it sustained on July 11 that resulted in the discharge of 17 million gallons of raw sewage nearshore (1 mile out). Consequently, LA Sanitation (LASAN)was discharging wastewater from Hyperion Treatment Plant into the ocean (5 miles out) that did not meet regulatory requirements. We now have confirmation that the plant is fully operational according to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB).
After the July 11disaster, LASAN was issued a notice of violation by the LARWQCB for the discharge of raw sewage in violation of their permit, which will likely result in fines. Further, LASAN was required to conduct additional water quality monitoring by the LARWQCB, initially consisting of daily samples taken at multiple locations and depths, 5 miles offshore. In mid-September the LARWQCB approved a request by LASAN to reduce monitoring to three times per week and, just this week, approved LASAN’s request to cease all additional offshore monitoring. The LARWQB made this decision based on the water quality data and the reports that LASAN has been required to submit.We have also reviewed the data provided on Hyperion’s recovery webpage and found that contaminant levels in the wastewater discharged into the ocean do indeed meet regulatory requirements. However, we do have a few lingering concerns about individual events of water quality exceedances over the last month, as well as remaining maintenance work to be done.
We are relieved that Hyperion now appears able to properly treat wastewater before it is discharged into the ocean. However, we still do not know the cause of the flooding and subsequent sewage spill. Heal the Bay is part of an ad hoc group meeting to discuss the causes of the incident and the response by government agencies, and to make recommendations for improvement. The group meets nearly every week with the aim of producing a comprehensive report by the end of the year. Heal the Bay will continue to push for answers from LASAN because we must make sure events like this do not happen in the future. We also look forward to carefully reviewing the report that LASAN must submit to the LARWQB by November 8 as well as tracking and ensuring that there is enforcement of the violations.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 theLA County Department of Public Health’s website and Heal the Bay’sBeach Report Card.
UPDATE: 8:00 am Pacific Time on August 3, 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Get in the spirit of the season and celebrate Fishy Fest at Heal the Bay Aquarium on October 30 and 31 from Noon – 4pm. Heal the Bay Aquarium, located beach level at the Santa Monica Pier, has a fun and family-friendly event planned both days, including activities that honor the unique holidays of Halloween and Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
For Halloween, visit our Dorothy Green Room for a deep-sea experience, tip-toe (if you dare!) through our “Ocean’s End Cemetery”, and learn about ocean pollution in our Mad Scientist Laboratory. All ghosts and goblins are also invited to take part in a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt.
For Día de los Muertos, add a memento of your loved ones to our Día de los Muertos Ofrenda, create colorful Día de los Muertos crafts, and much more!
What is Día de los Muertos?
“Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a time to honor and revere our deceased family members and ancestors. This tradition is rooted in the native Mexican belief that life on earth is a preparation for the next world, and of the importance of maintaining a strong relationship to the dead.
It is a time for families to gather and welcome the souls of the dead on their annual visit home. Cempasúchil (marigold) flowers, burning copal incense, fresh pan de muertos bread, candles, sugar skulls, photographs and mementos of the departed adorn special altars. In Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated over an entire week with the preparation of altars, foods, dance, music, and special offerings for people who have died.” – Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture without Borders
Schedule of events:
Join our Fishy Fest celebration, taking place on both Saturday and Sunday from Noon – 4pm, at Heal the Bay Aquarium for a fun-filled weekend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Come learn more about the future Inell Woods Park. We’re co-hosting an Open House there with the City of Los Angeles on Saturday, October 16 at 11 am to 1 pm. You are invited (see flyer below for details)!
Heal the Bay is committed to improving water quality in Los Angeles County’s watersheds through the creation of more green space. In addition to providing recreation areas and wildlife habitat, green spaces can function as essential multi-benefit stormwater solutions too. They improve local water quality, increase water reuse and supply, reduce carbon, and mitigate heat island effect.
This is why we are so excited to tell you about Inell Woods Park, Heal the Bay’s innovative stormwater park project near the intersection of McKinley Avenue and E 87th Place in South LA. Our work to build the park is being done in collaboration with LA City Councilmember Curren Price, North East Trees, California State Parks, and many local community members.
Inell Woods Park is a good example of how the Safe Clean Water Program aims to increase local water supply, improve water quality, and protect public health by focusing efforts on multi-benefit projects in communities that have been identified as severely disadvantaged with regards to access to green space and other socioeconomic factors. Multi-benefit projects are the most efficient and effective use of our taxpayer dollars because they are cost-conscious solutions that serve both community and environmental needs.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.