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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



Come learn more about the future Inell Woods Park expected to be completed in 2022. 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.

Inell Woods Park Stormwater Benefits

Inell Woods Park Green Space Features

  • Greenways
  • Walking track
  • Tot lot
  • Native plant gardens
  • Exercise equipment
  • Sitting areas



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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A post shared by Heal the Bay (@healthebay)


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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As the tide turns on Coastal Cleanup Month, our big waves of gratitude and appreciation roll in for all who took part. We embarked on Coastal Cleanup Month with the mission of Healing Our Watersheds together. Even though it was another year of uncertainty due to the pandemic, our Coastal Cleanup Month participants still made an impact while keeping one another safe.   

Thank you for volunteering in a cleanup, joining us at a virtual event, supporting our fundraising efforts, and sharing your exciting cleanup stories with photos and videos. Collectively, our contributions cleaned up our beaches, wetlands, waterways, neighborhoods, and mountain trails. 

Combining the Best of Both Waves: In-Person & Virtual in 2021 

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that even when our world seems to be shut down, the trash never stops. Pollution continues to wreak havoc locally and globally in our watersheds and communities. 

Last year, Heal the Bay expanded Coastal Cleanup Day to encompass the entire month. Our communities attended interactive virtual events and we encouraged self-guided cleanups throughout the month in order to do our part while protecting the health and safety of all.

Coastal Cleanup Month 2021 continued to highlight how cleanups can and should be done anywhere, anytime – not just along the coast. Our virtual events on Instagram Live and Zoom were led by scientists and experts who discussed environmental issues in Los Angeles County and focused on inclusive solutions. 

This year — with careful planning and consideration — we were thrilled to bring back in-person cleanups on Coastal Cleanup Day in a limited capacity. In addition to self-guided cleanups throughout the month, we also wanted to safely come together outside to take action.


Emely Garcia, Coastal Cleanup Day Coordinator for Los Angeles County, praises the community effort to bring back safe, in-person cleanups for the big day, “The preparation and planning from our staff, site captains, and volunteers made this such a rewarding Coastal Cleanup Day. While this Coastal Cleanup looks much different than past years, it was wonderful being back in person, even at reduced capacity, protecting what we love.” 

Coastal Cleanup Day would not have been possible without the leadership of our volunteer site captains across LA County:

Alex Preso, Anne Walker, Art Liem, Art Salter, Ashley Zarella, Barbara Gentile – Crary, Britany Goldsmith, Brittaney Olaes, Carl Carranza, Catherine Vargas, David Weeshoff, Don Nipper, Emily Parker, Fallon Rabin, Grace Young, Homin Houta, Jay Fodor, Joan Hernandez, Joel Glen, John La Rock, Karen Barnett, Lendi Slover, Leslie Cortez, Lois Brunet, Luke Ginger, Matthew Billinghurst, Maritza Toles, Nainoa Cravalho, Nick Shattuck, Patricia Jimenez, Patrick Tyrell, Roger Waiters, Say Craig, Supriyaa Singh, Tarry Kang, Terumi Toyoshima, and William Bowling. 

A special THANK YOU to our site captains for leading the in-person effort on Coastal Cleanup Day!

Coastal Cleanup Month Results 

This year, 4,708 volunteers across LA County collected over 30,000 pieces of trash during September for Coastal Cleanup Month.  

Coastal Cleanup Day 

On Saturday Sept 18, we had 2,735 volunteers join us at 35 beaches, river, and inland sites across Los Angeles County, California to participate in Coastal Cleanup Day 2021.

In a span of three hours, our volunteers removed 5,051 pounds of trash and 156 pounds of recyclables. They covered 50+ miles of area on land and underwater, tracking their trash and memories as they went. 

Weird Finds 

An Invisalign at the beach? A golf bag underwater? A traffic cone in the creek? It would not be Coastal Cleanup Day without a list of weird trash finds. 

Here are a few of our favorites from Coastal Cleanup Day 2021: 

  • Barbie Doll head found in a tide pool (Surfrider Beach) 
  • Baby jumper car (Long Beach) 
  • Social Security Card (Santa Monica Beach – North) 
  • Student LAUSD Bus Pass from 2012 (Toes Beach) 
  • Fake $50 Bill and Pearl earring (Mother’s Beach) 
  • Bike wheel and pineapple (Ballona Wetlands) 

Self-Guided Cleanups

973 self-guided cleanups took place all month long and were an essential part of Coastal Cleanup Month. Heal the Bay volunteers took initiative to clean up every aspect of our watershed over the four-week span, especially at their outdoor happy places. With sweat on their brow, smiles on their faces, and buckets full of trash, we want to highlight the amazing work of our 1,973 cleanup volunteers.

We had participants across our watershed; mountains – 42, neighborhoods – 183, waterways – 29, and beaches – 1,717.

Our Overall Impact 

LA County’s Top 10 Trash Items 

The results are in! Take a look at the top 10 trash items removed by volunteers in Los Angeles County during September 2021.

Why Do We Track Trash Data? 

Data collected by volunteers during Coastal Cleanup Month is necessary in tracking local and global pollution trends. Our cleanup trash totals provide a snapshot of the current waste stream circulating here in Los Angeles and around the globe. This provides important baseline knowledge to inform and influence public policy and business practices for a healthier ocean, cleaner waterways, and safer communities.  

As our top 10 trash items list displays, pollution from single-use plastic is the most prominent litter source in Los Angeles County.  

PPE: Year Two of the Pandemic and its Impact on Our Environment 

2020 was the first time we tracked the improper disposal of single-use personal protective equipment for LA County. Last year, it ranked #10 in the Top 10 Finds for Coastal Cleanup Month. This year, it ranks #9. Our data displays the negative impact the pandemic and sanitary measures have had on our waste stream, adding to another global problem: single-use plastic. 

Problematic Plastic: The Takeover of Microplastics

For both self-guided cleanups and in-person cleanup trash totals, the most frequent find was small plastic pieces. Our volunteers collected 6,547 plastic pieces. These problematic plastic pieces eventually break down into microplastics. Microplastics, which measure less than 5 mm, populate every aspect of our watershed  found in our water, the food we eat, and swirling around in our atmosphere. This is a worldwide crisis, not just for the environment but for humans as well.  

As shown in our data above, single-use plastic from the food and drink industry are huge pollution sources, and eventual microplastic contributors as they breakdown in our environment. While cleanups aid in reducing the volume of plastic pieces that wind up in our watershed, we need to address the problem at the source. That’s why we’re fighting for effective plastic policies that limit the production of single-use plastic and make it easier for recyclable plastic to be disposed of properly.  

Take Action: From Bills to Law, We Need Your Help  

The California legislature introduced the Circular Economy Package in 2021 to fight plastic pollution. Here are three bills in the package that tackle plastic pollution, and could use your help to get signed into law: 

Senate Bill 343: The Truth in Environmental Advertising Act 

Have you ever turned over a plastic cup to see if it can be recycled, and noticed there is a number that’s encircled with the “chasing arrows” symbol. This leads you to believe it is recyclable, right?! Well, most of the time, it is not actually recyclable. SB 343 makes using the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle symbol illegal if the item cannot actually be recycled. It only permits the use of the ♻️  symbol to be used on items that can be recycled in California. What a novel idea, huh! SB 343 helps to clarify what items should go in the recycling bin, reducing confusion among consumers while improving diversion rates. This means less waste is sent to landfill and more is actually recycled. 

Assembly Bill 1276: Disposable Foodware Accessories 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us relied much more heavily on restaurant takeout and food delivery to feed ourselves and our loved ones while supporting local restaurants. The downside? Receiving disposable foodware accessories like cutlery, condiment packets, and straws that we don’t need and frequently end up in the trash without ever being used. These items, often made of single-use plastic, are clogging waste facilities and polluting our environment. AB 1276 would require foodware accessories only be provided upon explicit request of the customer, so you wouldn’t get them unless you ask. 

Assembly Bill 962: California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act 

What’s the best way to fight plastic pollution? Tackling the problem at the source. This bill focuses on replacing harmful disposable plastic items with sustainable reusable and refillable products. AB 962 promotes returnable and refillable beverage bottles in California by allowing glass bottles to be washed and refilled by beverage companies instead of crushed and recycled into new bottles – a much less energy-intensive process that encourages reuse and refill.

Take action! Urge Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the Circular Economy Package Into Law and many others here: https://camustlead.org/ 

Reduce Your Plastic Pollution EVERY DAY

In addition to urging the California Governor to sign strong anti-pollution policies into law, you can make changes every day to reduce the amount of plastic waste that enters our watershed. 

Expanding upon the eco-friendly concept of reduce, reuse, and recycle, we encourage you to go two steps further before recycling an item: refuse and repurpose. Incorporating the 5 R’s of sustainability into your daily decision-making as a consumer will limit the expulsion of single-use plastic waste and its effects on our environment. 

Before throwing an item in the trash, we encourage you to walk through these five steps: 

  1. Refuse 
  2. Reduce 
  3. Reuse 
  4. Repurpose 
  5. Recycle

Disposing plastic waste properly is important, but we must acknowledge that the prevalence of plastic in our world is not a burden that falls solely on the consumer – producers, we’re looking at you too! By using your voice to influence public policies and business practices for a plastic-free future, you are holding companies and corporations accountable for the waste they create. 

Coastal Cleanup Month shows us that when communities work together, we make a big splash. This shared work must continue, and we must protect what we love every day. 

Stay involved and support our clean water mission year-round with Adopt-a-Beach, Club Heal the Bay, Suits on the Sand, and MPA Watch.  Sign up for our Blue Newsletter and Action Alerts to stay in the loop on our current science, advocacy, community action, and education programs and campaigns. 

And don’t forget to save the date on Saturday, September 17, 2022, for next year’s Coastal Cleanup! 

Big Wave of Thanks 

As we reflect on our goals and impact from Coastal Cleanup Month 2021, we want to thank our amazing partners who helped make our in-person and virtual programming possible:  

Portland Potato Vodka 

Ocean Conservancy 

California Coastal Commission 

Water for LA 

City of Santa Monica 

TIME TO ACT Entertainment 

Also, special thanks to Kelsey Davenport, our poster designer, and Steve Nguyen, our animated video creator for their amazing artistic contributions.



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.

 



The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board chose to delay clean water progress by extending the deadlines polluters have to reduce their stormwater pollution, up to 6.5 years in some cases. Their decision allows the continued discharge of pollutants from across LA to drain through our communities and into the Pacific Ocean.


UPDATE 9/30/2021

On September 21, 2021, the State Water Resources Control Board approved the LA Regional Water Board’s extensions for nine water quality deadlines ranging from 1.5-6.5 years, allowing for the continued discharge of pollutants from across LA to drain through our communities and into the Pacific Ocean.

This decision was made without evidence of good faith efforts towards achieving the requirements, without justifying the need for those extensions, and without putting in place sufficient oversight requirements to ensure progress is made. This is a terrible precedent to set considering how important these deadlines are.

However, comments from Heal the Bay along with our partners at LA Waterkeeper in opposition to these deadline extensions, did at least give pause to Board Members before their final decision. During Board deliberations, the lack of progress (only 6% complete) was highlighted, the need for accountability was raised, and a clear statement was made that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a reason to weaken water quality standards (which would further threaten public health). Board members also stated that this approval does not mean that deadlines can be delayed indefinitely.

If permittees return to once again request extensions, we will remind the State Board members of these declarations. Together we can Take LA By Storm to keep permittees accountable to these new deadlines and to their Clean Water Act requirements. Sign up for emails to stay informed, receive implementation updated, and find out how you can engage in the process!

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UPDATE 9/15/2021

During the February hearing on TMDL deadline extensions, the LA Regional Water Board voted to approve extensions for nine TMDLs ranging from 1.5-6.5 years, allowing for the continued discharge of pollutants from across LA to drain through our communities and into the Pacific Ocean. But this decision must be approved by the State Water Resources Control Board before it is made official.


On March 11, 2021 the LA Regional Water Board voted to extend nine water quality deadlines, which were set decades ago to improve water quality and protect the health of our communities and our ecosystems. This sends a dangerous message that it is ok to continue contaminating our neighborhoods, rivers, and ocean even after long-standing deadlines have passed us by.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 protects our rivers and oceans by limiting the amount of pollution that can be discharged into them. Under the Clean Water Act, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) refers to the maximum amount of pollution that a waterbody can handle before people get sick or aquatic life is harmed. Environmental groups fought hard to make the Regional Water Boards start paying attention to TMDLs starting in the 1990s. 

There are 59 TMDLs in the Los Angeles Region for various contaminants (trash, bacteria, etc) polluting our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Some have deadlines as late as 2038, so there is still time to meet those limits. Others are due this year, and some have already passed. These TMDL deadlines were set decades ago with lengthy timelines that gave dischargers (called “permittees”) many years, in some cases nearly 20 years, to achieve these pollution limits. The deadlines were developed through extensive negotiations with all stakeholders. Heal the Bay and concerned community members from all over the County showed up at Regional Water Board hearings to demand pollution limits and clean water. At that time, we celebrated these TMDLs and believed our regulators would finally hold polluters accountable for meeting them.

Unfortunately, permittees are far behind schedule in reducing polluted discharges, as Heal the Bay reported back in 2019 in our Stormwater Report. Last year, the LA Regional Water Board confirmed this trend of very slow progress, reporting that only 6.6% of required pollution reduction projects were completed in the areas that received deadline extensions. The lack of measurability and accountability within the Stormwater Permit allowed this slow progress to go unnoticed for years. When it was finally daylighted, the LA Regional Water Board did nothing to correct it. 

As a result, there are several TMDLs with imminent deadlines that will not be met, and others that are well past due. Because of the extremely slow progress over the last 20 years, permittees are complaining that these ~20-year deadlines are now unrealistic, and have requested 10+ years of extra time! It seems they feel no urgency to clean up our community’s waterways.

Meanwhile, water quality suffers. You can see that by checking California’s List of Impaired Waters, where 208 waterbodies in the LA Region are listed as polluted by multiple contaminants. You can see it in UCLA’s 2019 Water Report Card, which assigned LA surface waters a dismal grade of D/Incomplete. You can see it in Heal the Bay’s River Report Card when bacteria still plagues our rivers even during dry weather, and in our Beach Report Card when grades across the board plummet during wet weather. There are other reports that tell a similar story, and we have yet to see any report that tells a different one. LA’s water is contaminated, stormwater is the primary source of that pollution, and no one is being held accountable for cleaning it up.

The recent hearing on TMDL deadline extensions was contentious. After much discussion, three of the seven Board Members voted to provide the 10 year extensions requested by permittees. But the majority of Board Members favored shorter extensions, and spoke powerfully in favor of clean water protection and environmental justice. In the end, they voted to approve extensions for nine TMDLs ranging from 1.5-6.5 years, rather than 10 or more years. While any extension delays progress towards achieving clean water, shorter extensions at least reign in further delays to achieving clean water.

Four of the Board Members also asked for better accountability from permittees, so we don’t end up right back here two decades from now, with poor water quality, wishing more had been done. Clear accountability can only be achieved through a strong Stormwater Permit. Unfortunately, our analysis of the Stormwater Permit clearly shows that the kind of accountability requested by the Board Members does not currently exist. 

One bright spot: the Stormwater Permit is up for renewal later this year, meaning we have a chance to make it better. We are asking Regional Water Board staff and Board Members to support clear, numeric pollution limits so we can hold permittees accountable to actually meet the new deadlines, because everyone in LA County deserves safe, clean water. 

Together we can Take LA By Storm to demand clear, measurable, and enforceable goals in the 2021 MS4 Permit. Sign up for emails to stay informed of the process and how you can take part!

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Learn more:



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.