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Heal the Bay Blog

Santa Monica often sets the stage for the rest of Southern California when it comes to curbing consumer practices that trash our oceans and neighborhoods.

In 2007, the Santa Monica City Council passed its first ordinance regulating the use of polystyrene, the type of foam typically used in fast-food and drink packaging that has become such an eyesore on our local beaches and neighborhoods.

Today, 110 municipalities in California have passed some type of legislation on the use of polystyrene.  Progressive cities like San Francisco, Malibu and Manhattan Beach have comprehensive bans that include retail sales, coolers and ice chests.

polystyrene ban

Last night, the City Council approved modifications to the City’s earlier ordinance on polystyrene, extending protections that will reduce blight and save marine life.

The new rules extend the existing polystyrene ban to include Food Service Ware (plates, bowls, utensils, cups, straws, and more) and prohibiting bio-plastic #7 and plastics #1-5. They also encourage alternatives such as paper, fiber, bagasse and wood for takeaway packaging.  They also require that takeaway straws and utensils only be made available to customers on a request-only basis, and that they be “marine degradable.”  There are exceptions for people with medical conditions for the use of straws.

These modifications are crucial if we are to systematically reduce plastic pollution in our communities and oceans.  In the last 18 years, Heal the Bay volunteers have removed over 736,000 pieces of plastic foam trash from L.A. beaches.  The harmful flow of single-use plastic foam is a constant threat to marine animals, wildlife and habitats.

And this pollution problem is only growing.  Of the more than 375,000 tons of polystyrene (plastic foam) produced in California each year, not even 1% gets recycled.  The rest ends up in our landfills, waterways and the ocean.

The new rules will help the city achieve its Zero Waste goals by 2030 — through diversion, composting, and recycling.

Nearly 30 people, ranging in age from 3 to 70 years old, spoke in support of the changes. Our policy leaders Katherine Pease and Mary Luna led the Heal the Bay contingent.  Councilmembers seemed enthusiastic during public testimony and wanted to learn more about how the City staff could work with businesses to facilitate transitioning polystyrene out of use.

Beginning January 1, 2019, vendors are not allowed to provide containers made out of polystyrene #6, or from other plastics #1-5; all containers need to be made out of materials like paper, wood, and fiber that meet the definition of marine degradable.

After that date, any business in Santa Monica serving food or drinks in containers labeled #1-6 would not be in compliance with this polystyrene ordinance, and the public may choose to educate them about the ordinance, or to file a report with the City’s Code Enforcement division to ensure compliance.

The definition of marine degradable is included in the ordinance language, specifying that products must degrade completely in marine waters or marine sediments in fewer than 120 days. Products predominantly made with plastics, either petroleum or biologically based, are not considered marine degradable.

Heal the Bay staff and our partners asked the Council to strengthen the ordinance by adding polystyrene items to the prohibited list, such as retail sales (e.g. packing materials, foam coolers) and grocery items (e.g. food trays, egg cartons).  The Council did add beverage lids to the list of items that need to be marine degradable.

The Council expressed interest in including retail sales and grocery items, but ultimately said the new ordinance isn’t the place for action.  Members instead directed staff to look at prohibition of polystyrene retail sales and come back with recommendations.  They also directed staff to look into possible charges for take-away containers (like the 10-cent charge for single-use plastic bags), and incentives for businesses to move more quickly to sustainable packaging.

The Santa Monica City Council showed great leadership last night by adopting the ordinance and continuing the conversation about how to strengthen it further.  We commend the efforts of city staff and councilmembers and look forward to working with the public to implement and build upon this important action.



New rules permit 1 out of 31 people to get sick from swimming at CA beaches

A day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick.  So it’s a bit perplexing to Heal the Bay that the state of California has just decided to weaken water-quality protections for the millions of people who visit our shoreline each year.

Last week the State Water Resources Control Board approved new standards for bacteria levels in our coastal and inland waters.  Unfortunately, the board has now decided that it’s acceptable that one person out of every 31 beachgoers become ill with diarrhea, intestinal ailments or skin rashes after a visit to the shore.

Think about that for a minute … if a typically-sized elementary school class goes on a field trip to the beach, it’s now OK for one of those children to later become sick from water contact.

But this isn’t just a theoretical debate. Tens of thousands of people get sick each year swimming at Southern California beaches.  Ocean-borne illnesses cause at least $20 million in health-related costs each year, according to L.A. County health officials.

We’re concerned because these new levels of “allowable” illness undermine public health protection and benefit polluters and dischargers.  The new rules basically endorse bacteria pollution levels set by the U.S. EPA, which had watered-down its own regulations in 2012 to Heal the Bay’s dismay.

California is known for setting stricter environmental standards than federal regulators. Instead of using the EPA as the gold standard for the Golden State, Heal the Bay believes that all standards and acceptable risk levels should be based on research performed along California’s unique coastline and watersheds.

Staff scientists Ryan Searcy and Karen Vu traveled to Sacramento to press this issue with the State Board, which is a branch of the California EPA.  The regulatory body oversees the state’s water quality, drinking water, and water rights programs.

The State Board also oversees Regional Boards, which develop water quality standards and enforces those standards when they are violated, all serving to protect the beneficial uses of the state’s waterways.

During our meetings we also expressed our concern about a provision to create a new inland regulatory designation that could have a major impact on efforts to increase recreation along the L.A. River.

The board has decided to create a new statewide beneficial-use designation for inland waterbodies, to be called Limited REC-1 (LREC-1).  The move may actually lead to efforts to restrict public access to spots along the L.A. River and other urban waterways.

L.A. River signage for water quality

Waterbodies in California that have recreational uses in or near the water are currently labeled either REC-1 or REC-2, depending on whether direct contact with and ingestion of the water will occur.  Depending on the designation, there are different water quality requirements for polluters that are discharging into the waterbodies.  The idea is to compel them to ensure that the beneficial use of the waterbody is maintained.

Under this new provision, a LREC-1 designation refers to waterbodies that are “limited by physical conditions such as very shallow water depth and restricted access and, as a result, ingestion of water is incidental and infrequent.”

Because an LREC-1 designation has less stringent water quality standards than a REC-1, an incentive is created for polluters to restrict public access to a waterbody to achieve a less protective designation.

This type of waterbody designation will have large implications for urban stream restoration efforts, such as those in the L.A. River, where a massive effort is under way to improve and increase public access.

However, we did manage to score a few wins in our trip to Sacramento.

Heal the Bay staff scientists worked with several other NGOs during the past few months and successfully stopped the State from dropping fecal coliform standards in determining ocean water-quality regulations.

The state had initially neglected California-based science that proves that fecal coliform remains a critical indicator of health risk at our beaches.

Fecal coliform is one of three fecal indicator bacteria that are monitored by beach agencies and regulated by the State.  These indicator bacteria aren’t necessarily harmful to humans  themselves, but each of the three are potentially indicative of the presence of pathogens in the water.  They are easier and cheaper to measure than directly measuring for the bugs that harm us.

In California, fecal coliform has been an important indicator of the risk of illness, along with enterococci and total coliform.  Thankfully, regulators agreed to go back and consider this science, and the original fecal coliform standards will remain.

Additionally, the state has also agreed to continue to consider the latest California-specific epidemiological studies to develop and improve appropriate bacteria objectives during future reviews of ocean-bacteria standards.

Some might wonder why the state is acting now to modify long-standing beach water-quality rules.

The board has cited a need to modernize its water quality standards. The last modification occurred in the late 1990s, with the passing of AB411 (which Heal the Bay helped enact).

AB411 mandated weekly monitoring of hundreds of California beaches, and requires beach agencies to post notices if the allowable thresholds are exceeded.  Since then, the EPA adopted new standards in 2012, and a number of relevant epidemiological studies were published in California.  The state made these changes in its standards mostly to align with the EPA, but neglected to consider the relevant epidemiological studies.

You can help us by paying attention to water quality at your favorite beaches and streams.  Fortunately, Heal the Bay has developed some tools for the public to use to do this easily.  Using the Beach Report Card, the NowCast system, and the River Report Card as advocacy tools.

All water-lovers can monitor their favorite swimming spots and raise their voices if they see consistently poor water quality.

You win some and you lose some whenever you travel to Sacramento’s halls of power, as any seasoned policy advocate will tell you.

While we are discouraged by the state’s decision to go lock-step with federal bacteria standards, we promise to keep fighting.  We will continue to support policies that provide the maximum public health protection.



Los mares y océanos son fundamentales para la vida y el equilibrio de nuestro planeta, pero lamentablemente, cada año terminan en el mar grandes cantidades de plástico, siendo una problemática muy importante.

En el 2010 se estimó que entre 4.8 y 12.7 millones de toneladas de plástico entraron al mar. Sin embargo, la producción de plástico aumenta un 3.7% anual. Para el 2015 se produjeron 322 millones de toneladas, de las cuales Estados Unidos generó el 18.5%1.

los angeles nonprofit environment ocean volunteer

En este punto vale la pena preguntarse qué sucede con el plástico en los ambientes acuáticos. El efecto más evidente es visual porque no es atractivo encontrar basura y residuos en ríos, mares y playas. Esa situación presenta consecuencias económicas porque afecta al turismo, al comercio y adiciona costos por limpieza e impuestos. ¿Pero hay consecuencias adicionales? Así es, la vida acuática podría enfrentar la peor parte y haber impactos posteriores en los seres humanos. Algunos organismos lo ingieren en forma de microplástico, lo que podría causar atascamiento y/o el ingreso a la cadena alimenticia de sustancias tóxicas que hacen parte del plástico o que son absorbidas por éste2. Asimismo, los seres humanos podrían consumir tanto microplástico como toxinas a través del pescado, la comida de mar y el agua potable.

El microplástico hace parte de productos como los cosméticos y también es generado cuando el plástico se fractura y deteriora en el ambiente. En general, el microplástico se encuentra distribuido ampliamente tanto en el agua, como el suelo y el aire. En la actualidad, se desconocen gran parte de las alteraciones y consecuencias que el microplástico y sus toxinas puedan generar en los organismos, los ecosistemas y los seres humanos. No obstante, se han iniciado estudios serios para definir sus efectos reales y diseñar estrategias para controlarlos y reducirlos3.

¡Tú sí puedes hacer la diferencia!

Los temas de conservación y prácticas más amigables con el ambiente aparecen a diario y muchas veces se piensa que es algo lejano, que es responsabilidad de otros o que desde la propia realidad poco o nada se puede hacer ¡pero no es así!

¡Desde la cotidianidad se puede hacer mucho!

¡Desde la cotidianidad se pueden hacer pequeños cambios que sumados hacen la diferencia!!

Manos a la obra!

Ahora mismo se puede empezar a hacer la diferencia mediante cuatro metas alcanzables:

1. Evitar el uso de pajillas plásticas: beber directamente del vaso o con pajillas biodegradables o metálicas.

2. Evitar el uso de foam: emplear recipientes de papel o contenedores reciclables. California está trabajando para eliminarlo completamente y se espera pronto su prohibición.

3. Evitar el uso de bolsas plásticas: cargar bolsas reutilizables y no comprar productos sobre-empacados.

4. Disponer adecuadamente la basura y recoger el plástico en playas y cerca a fuentes de agua.

¡Las acciones individuales son una manera real y efectiva para lograr cambios importantes dentro de la sociedad si son adoptadas y multiplicadas por otras personas!

Sources:
1. Microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture. Status of knowledge on their occurrence and implications for aquatic organisms and food safety. Food and Agriculture Administration of the United Nations. 2017. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7677e.pdf
2. Toxicological Threats of Plastic. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2017. https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/toxicological-threats-plastic#how
3. Microplastics Expert Workshop Report. EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. December 2017. file:///D:/Documents/Heal%20the%20Bay/microplastics_expert_workshop_report_final_12-4-17.pdf



Looking for a good read this summer? Talia Walsh, Heal the Bay’s Associate Director of Communications, has a new book recommendation just for you!

Children’s doctor, immigrant and mom, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha captured national attention as the whistleblower for the Flint Water Crisis. In her new book titled, “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City”, she opens up about today’s public and environmental health issues reverberating in cities across America.

From the front lines of Flint, Michigan, Dr. Mona’s story inspires and challenges us to better understand adversity in our communities. She urges each one of us, who has had the privilege of realizing the American Dream, to pass it forward to the next generation.

Ahead of Dr. Mona’s visit to Los Angeles on July 11 at the ALOUD event, we caught up with her about the new book — a must-have on your summer reading list.

HTB: You’ve remained FOCUSED and you’ve kept our attention on the Flint Water Crisis. This is no easy feat in today’s 24/7 news cycle. How do you stay focused?

DR. MONA: The kids that I care for absolutely ground me every day. They remind me what this work is about. It’s easy to get angry, its easy to get jaded, it’s easy to point fingers. But, when your mission is protecting the future of children, that is what enables me to keep my focus, and to fight in a science-driven way for what is right for them.

Heal the Bay: What’s the biggest takeaway lesson from your Flint Water Crisis experience?

DR. MONA: Flint is not an isolated story. There are the same crises happening in cities all across our nation. From issues with democracy and environmental injustice, to austerity, the breakdown of infrastructure and the neglect for children. The biggest takeaway lesson from Flint was that we opened our eyes and we said, this is not how it should be and we can make a change. You have the power and you have a role to stand up for your environment and our children.

HTB: Immigration is a big theme in your new book. As a child, you immigrated to this country from Iraq with your parents. What words of encouragement do you have for immigrant families facing adversity today?

DR. MONA: What’s happening in our nation today touches me on so many levels. As a pediatrician, it is disturbing. I know the consequences of trauma. From facing difficult situations to being separated from family to being discriminated against once in this country. Those traumas, from a medical and behavioral health perspective, impact children for their life-course trajectories.

I wrote this book, not only to share the lessons of Flint, not only to inspire folks to be active, to resist, and to work to better their communities. But, it was also the intent to share positive immigrant stories, especially of Arab-Americans, who we were going to ban from this country and who we only associate with war and terrorism. 

As an immigrant, as a kid who came to this country when I was four… by and large, I was welcomed with open arms. I grew up very confident and competent. That is not happening right now. Ultimately, besides the native people, we are a nation of immigrants. If those doors were closed to me when I was four, you wonder what we are missing out on in this nation because of folks who no longer come here for that opportunity, for that freedom. So as an immigrant it’s also disturbing. And then, as a mom, as a parent, it’s heartbreaking, especially with the separations.

This book is a fast-paced story about what happened in Flint. It’s also a memoir.

To understand my role in this crisis, you have to understand where I came from and who I am… the lens through which I see the world. And [the topic of immigration] probably would not have been as big in this book, if it were not for the last election.

HTB: With all of this going on today in the U.S. and from your experience on a hyper-local level in Flint, is the AMERICAN DREAM still alive for you?

DR. MONA: The American Dream was what we came for, me and my family, in 1980. It was absolutely realized for me and my family. We reaped the American Dream. My parents came here with nothing besides their education. They worked hard. They sent their kids to public schools and received a great education. We are a consequence of the American Dream. But, that is being closed on folks. Not only for incoming immigrants, but also for my kids in Flint.

My kids in Flint — it’s like two Americas — they wake up to a nightmare.

Even before the water crisis, it has been a nightmare for kids in Flint and kids throughout our country who live with so many toxicities. Not only the toxicity of contaminated water, but the toxicity of poverty, violence, crumbling schools, discrimination, racism and all of the other adversities that impact them. In places like Flint, just like many others in this country, the zip code you are born in predicts your life-course trajectory. It is hard to change your situation in life when you have so much adversity piled up against you. [These kids] don’t have access to the American Dream like I did.

HTB: Do you think democracy can ever be restored in Flint, especially for the African-American community who were disproportionally impacted by the Flint Water Crisis?

DR. MONA: Flint is an extreme example where democracy was usurped. The city was under state-appointed emergency management. At one point in 2013, half of African-Americans in Michigan were under emergency management, as compared to 2% of Whites. Grossly undemocratic, no accountability, no role for elected officials. But, this is similar to other issues in this country in regards to lack of democracy. Look what’s happening with gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, mass incarceration. We are shifting populations and we are minimizing the voice of certain people.

Going back to Flint, the power of the local officials has been restored. The Mayor does have power back. But the city was starved for so long, it’s hard to be fully functioning when your capacity was so limited. You know, it will take a long time to be a functioning democracy.

HTB: When you started this journey in Flint, who were your LOCAL ALLIES to get things done?

DR. MONA: One of the reasons I did not want to write this book was that this story is NOT about me! This story is about a team. It took a team of folks — a random, diverse group of professionals that all came together for the same cause. It was moms, activists, pastors, local faith-based organizations, nonprofits, the ACLU, the EPA, a water scientist from Virginia, my girlfriend who works at a nonprofit water group. It was a mix of folks that opened up their eyes together to uncover this story. That is such an important lesson.

So often in our work, whatever our work may be, we are very siloed. We only work with people who do the exact same thing that we do. And we don’t realize the other solutions out there in different disciplines, from people who look different than us, who live somewhere else and who vote different than us, yet who also care about the same things. The beauty is being able to find that village and come together.

HTB: What about the ratepayers, the consumers of the water themselves. How do they stay informed about local water issues?

DR. MONA: It’s hard. The people of Flint have been heroic. They were the first to raise the alarm bells. Amazing moms and activists who pushed every button and started the domino effect of uncovering this crisis. There are folks in Flint that suffer from incredible obstacles to information and access. We have a 60% poverty rate for our children… huge transportation issues, literacy issues… there are so many obstacles associated with poverty that have made communication and information-sharing quite difficult.

That’s why things in Flint are always done at the grassroots level.

The folks who go door-to-door are your neighbors; they are the ones helping with the water filter installation and the maintenance.

HTB: In Los Angeles County, there are many GRASSROOTS efforts. What words of wisdom do you have for grassroots leaders and clean water advocates here in L.A.?

DR. MONA: One of the reasons I wrote this book is to be an inspiring call to action. [This book] is about the people, places and problems that we choose not to see. We all have to open our eyes. When we work together we can tap into this incredible power that is within all of us to create change. There couldn’t be a more timely moment to share that message with what is happening in our nation—where there is an incredible need for ongoing activism and informed communities.

Buy the book

Meet the author on July 11


A Quick Refresher on the Flint Water Crisis

Before Flint, Michigan realized its water crisis in 2014, the city was nearing bankruptcy and took a series of deliberate actions to cut costs. When Governor Rick Snyder declared an emergency in the state, he removed a swath of elected government positions and appointed “emergency managers” into these roles. His swift move created the conditions for a murky view into local public policy.

As if losing the right to vote and access to public information was not enough a blow to overcome, community members in Flint had no say when state-appointed emergency managers hastily switched the drinking water source and treatment policy.

In a temporary plan to save the city of Flint money, emergency managers claimed they could cut costs by sourcing water from the Flint River instead of the Great Lakes. The new plan did not include sufficient water treatment procedures like corrosion control, a method to avoid lead leaching into the water, which is outlined in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. As a direct result, nearly 100,000 Flint residents were exposed to lead and harmful bacteria.

When the community began complaining about the condition of the water coming out of their taps, they were not getting any straight answers from city officials. Flint residents were left defenseless — their ability to vote and hold local officials accountable had been taken away by the Governor. They were cut off from critical information. Yet they persevered.

Community heroes like Dr. Mona began to listen, connect the dots and speak up.

Today the water in Flint, Michigan still needs to be filtered or residents must use bottled water. But, conditions are improving and there is a big plan underway to replace all of the corroded lead pipes in the region. Some justice is also being served. Over a dozen individuals and water infrastructure firms involved in the Flint Water Crisis are currently being investigated for felony and misdemeanor criminal charges, including negligent homicide, conspiracy and misconduct in office.

If Dr. Mona and other water warriors did not turn their knowledge into action, if they did not use their chorus of voices to create a platform for change, it’s unclear how long the Flint community would have suffered from lead poisoning and exposure to other harmful toxins.



stormwater in los angeles county heal the bay

 

1. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

Attend the Public Hearing

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide July 17 (formerly July 10) whether to place a public funding measure (The Safe, Clean Water Program) on the November ballot to increase stormwater capture throughout our region.

The measure would raise $300 million for such nature-based water quality amenities as green streets, multi-benefit parks and revitalized wetlands.

We are going to turn greater L.A. into a sponge, harvesting billions of gallons of rain for reuse instead of sending it uselessly to the sea!  There are dozens of reasons to support increased capture of rainwater and other urban runoff.

These projects would:

  • Keep harmful bacteria and trash from ruining your favorite beaches.
  • Protect the animals that call the Bay home from gross runoff and plastic pollution.
  • Provide a supply of reliable and locally sourced water as climate change worsens. 

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink L.A.’s outdated water model and better prepare for an increasingly arid future.  

We need YOU to attend the public hearing with us on July 17, 2018 to encourage the Board to place this water-saving measure on the ballot. RSVP here, and wear your favorite blue shirt to show your support!

 


 

2. CONTACT YOUR ELECTED SUPERVISOR

Send a Tweet

If you can’t make it to the public hearing in person, you can still take action! If you live in greater Los Angeles, please contact your supervisor to show your support during this critical time:

Look up your district by your zip code.

Then, find your district’s elected Supervisor:

  • First District: Hilda L. Solis
  • Second District: Mark Ridley-Thomas
  • Third District: Sheila Kuehl
  • Fourth District: Janice Hahn
  • Fifth District: Kathryn Barger

Next, call or email your Supervisor:

“My name is (your name), from (city) and (zip code). I stand with Heal the Bay and the OurWaterLA coalition in full support of The Safe, Clean Water Program, which could raise $300 Million every year for nature-based stormwater capture projects. I hope we can count on you, to vote YES at the Public Hearing on July 17th, in support of this important measure.”

First District: Hilda L. Solis
Phone: 213-974-4111
Email: firstdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov

Second District: Mark Ridley-Thomas
Phone: 213-974-2222
Email: markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov

Third District: Sheila Kuehl
Phone: 213-974-3333
Email: sheila@bos.lacounty.gov

Fourth District: Janice Hahn
Phone: 213-974-4444
Email: fourthdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov

Fifth District: Kathryn Barger
Phone: 213-974-5555
Email: kathryn@bos.lacounty.gov

Finally, send a Tweet to your Supervisor:

Please vote YES on The Safe, Clean Water Program, a public funding measure for nature-based water quality projects in L.A. County #OurWaterLA @SheilaKuehl @mridleythomas @HildaSolis @SupJaniceHahn @kathrynbarger

 


 

3. GET THE FACTS

Add Your Name to Our Petition

The Safe, Clean Water Program treats runoff as a resource—not a nuisance. Watch Meredith McCarthy, Interim Operations Director at Heal the Bay, explain why we need to save more stormwater in L.A.

OurWaterLA, a coalition of leading environmental, labor and social justice organizations, is united behind The Safe, Clean Water Program. See our joint letter to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors:

 



Heal the Bay today released our 28th annual Beach Report Card, which assigns yearly A-to-F water-quality grades for more than 400 beaches statewide based on levels of harmful bacteria.

Our staff scientists put a ton of work into this comprehensive county-by-county survey of pollution along the California shoreline. We encourage you to geek out on all the stats and charts we’ve assembled in the colorful, easy-to-read report.

But if you are short on time, here are the major findings:

  • There’s one silver lining in Southern California’s recent swing back to drought-like conditions – improved beach water quality.
  • Less rain means less bacteria-laden urban runoff carried to the sea via the stormdrain system. Accordingly, bacterial pollution at our local beaches dipped dramatically in 2017-18. Some 95% of the beaches monitored in Southern California earned A grades during the busy summer season, a 5% uptick from the reporting period’s five-year average.
  • In another positive sign, a record 37 beaches in California made the Heal the Bay Honor Roll this year – meaning they are monitored year-round and score perfect A-plus grades each week during all seasons and weather conditions. You can see the full list on page 20 of the report.
  • Northern California beach-water quality sagged slightly in 2017-18, driven in large part by troubled beaches in San Mateo County and Humboldt County.
  • Some 88% of the 96 Northern California beaches monitored by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade for the busy summer season. That figure marks a 3% dip from the region’s five-year summer average.
  • In a somewhat surprising twist, Northern California held seven spots on our infamous Beach Bummer List, a ranking of the top 10 most polluted beaches in the state based on levels of harmful bacteria.
  • Poche Beach (creek mouth) in Orange County has the dubious honor of holding the top spot on our Beach Bummer List this year. For the full list, please see page 16 of the report.
  • You can get a county-by-county, beach-by-beach breakdown in the full report.
  • Download our press releases for Southern California and Northern California.

NowCast program

We’re also expanding our predictive beach water-quality NowCast program this summer, which could be a game-changer for better protecting people at the beach. Using sophisticated statistical models, environmental data, and past bacteria samples, the scientific team can accurately predict each morning what beaches might be impacted by bacterial pollution that day. Knowledge is power! This summer, Heal the Bay will run models for 20 beaches, from San Diego to San Francisco counties, posting predictions each morning on our digital platforms.

New website and mobile app

We’re also stoked to take the wraps off our newly redesigned Beach Report Card website, which allows users to get the latest water-quality grades for their favorite beaches in real-time. We’ve streamlined functionality and incorporated the new data sets from our NowCast program. Our tech team also is readying a new mobile app to launch this summer, just in time for prime beachgoing season. Learn more about what is new.

How to stay safe at the beach

  • Check beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches, which usually suffer from poor circulation
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks and piers

Download the Report

Visit Our New Beach Report Card website

Support This Work



 

Heal the Bay’s science and policy department recommends the following votes on ballot measures that directly affect the health of Southern California shorelines and inland waterways.

YES on Proposition 68

 A vote to authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply, and flood protection. The bond measure addresses some of California’s most important water, park and natural resource needs.

The issue: California has been facing frequent and severe droughts, wildfires, and the impacts of climate change. This bond measure would invest in our natural resources and help prepare for any possible disasters. Funds would help keep toxic pollutants out of our drinking water, clean up groundwater, increase local water supplies, and create safe parks for children while protecting the land around the rivers and lakes that provide our drinking water. Prop 68 commits 40% of the bond measure funds to underserved, low-income communities. Accountability will also be ensured through annual audits. Help provide clean water and safe parks for every community with this measure.

The stakes: California continues to face a reduction in support of our water supplies and natural resources from our federal government. Many communities in Los Angeles are underserved, lacking safe spaces and parks for their children to use, as well as lacking access to safe drinking water in their homes. With the continued drought, natural disasters and wildfires could become more frequent and damaging. By capturing and recycling more water locally in communities, Californians can help prepare for these devastating events by increasing our local water supply while protecting our natural resources for future generations.

Our recommendation: Stand up for clean, safe drinking water and protect our natural resources. Vote YES.

YES on Proposition 72

A vote to prevent property tax increases for homeowners who install rainwater capture and reuse systems.

The issue: Stormwater is a great potential resource for water supply on a local scale as well as throughout California. Homeowners can install rainwater recycling systems that collect, store and reuse thousands of gallons of stormwater each year for outdoor use in landscaping and gardens. These projects reduce the use of potable water in landscaping, buffer the effects of drought, and benefit our entire state. Currently, installation of a rainwater capture system can increase property value, and consequently increase property taxes owed. Help Californians conserve water by eliminating this extra tax for homeowners who choose to capture and reuse rainwater.

The stakes: Much of the rain that falls in California is wasted as stormwater runoff, which flows through our waterways and out to the Pacific Ocean. In Los Angeles County alone, 80 billion gallons of stormwater runoff is lost every year. In the process, stormwater transports oil, trash and other contaminants into our rivers, our lakes and our ocean. These pollutants pose a serious risk to public and environmental health. Californians who choose to install rainwater capture systems help to improve water quality and reduce water waste. These efforts should be encouraged and rewarded.

Our recommendation: Reward homeowners who choose to recycle our rainwater resources. Vote YES.

 

 



Eric Garcetti and Zooey Deschanel at Heal the Bay Gala 2018

Please browse Flickr for images from the Gala and our Blue Carpet.

The fates shone on Heal the Bay last night at our annual “Bring Back the Beach” Annual Awards Gala.

After a week of May Gray, the sun gloriously took over at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica. Under a gentle breeze and the gaze of a beaming lighthouse, more than 700 guests schmoozed on the sand and saluted our honorees: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Univision TV anchor Gabriela Teissier and Hollywood couple and sustainability champions Zooey Deschanel and husband Jacob Pechenik of The Farm Project.

L.A.’s biggest beach party always draws an eclectic crowd — from Venice artists to Silver Lake activists, DTLA policy wonks to South Bay surfers. Buoyed by tasty cocktails (blood orange margaritas!) and good vibes, our guests came out in beach-chic style to support our biggest fundraiser of the year.

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Thanks to their generosity we met our goals, raising more than one-fifth of our annual operating budget in a single night. Proceeds of the night underwrite a number of programs, from water-quality monitoring to subsidized field trips for underserved youth to visit our Aquarium.

Mayor Garcetti was the undeniable star of the evening. His sincere and humble comments about what Heal the Bay has meant to our city – and to him personally – had the crowd rapt. With his quick wit and clear command of policy, it’s easy to see why he’s a rumored candidate for the 2020 presidency. The Mayor bookended his speech with poems by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. Here is the beginning of “The Sea”:

I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.

In addition to Univision brass, Teissier brought her entire family to salute her longtime commitment to broadcasting stories about ocean and river protection to L.A.’s Spanish-speaking community. Fundraising galas can be long events, so it was endearing to see her sons patiently playing on a jungle gym while waiting for Mom to get her big award. Speaking passionately in both English and Spanish, Teissier recounted stories of her own upbringing and reaffirmed that Latino women have historically stood at the forefront of the environmental movement in Southern California.

Board member and fellow actress Amy Smart welcomed Deschanel and Pechenik to the Heal the Bay family. The couple, who run The Farm Project to better connect consumers directly to the producers of the food, spoke passionately about the growing scourge of plastic pollution in our food chain and greater environment. To cheers, Zooey talked about making smarter choices as consumer: “You weigh the options — single-use plastic vs. a healthy planet … get rid of that single-use plastic! It’s not worth it. It’s convenient filler. It doesn’t do ANYTHING for you. It doesn’t make you laugh or cry!” Well said.

Other supporters making waves: Meg Gill, an HTB board member and founder of Golden Road Brewing, sampling the newly revised version of Heal the Bay IPA with other beer lovers. (Gill is an avid swimmer, who still holds the female record for the fastest 50-meter swim ever recorded in the Ivy League!); Black Surfers Collective leaders Jeff Williams and Greg Rachal charming “Jumanji” co-star Ser’Darius Blain into participating in our upcoming Nick Gabaldon Day; a determined and persistent online bidder from New Jersey who triumphed at our Live Auction to secure a private Goodyear Blimp tour of the Santa Monica Bay.

Major props to the musical talent for the evening – the James Gang. The multi-player party band had supporters boogieing to the very end with their diverse chops, from spirited covers of Dr. Dre to soulful send-ups of Van the Man. They sent many a guest shimmying to their awaiting Lyft rides.

And a deep thank you to our dinner co-chairs: Malibu architect David Hertz and South Bay champion Kim Conant-Blum. Their boundless energy proved to be the ideal one-two punch for a successful evening under the stars.

A final thank you to our dynamic team of Heal the Bay volunteers, staff, leadership, Board, our incredible photographers Colin Young-Wolff, Dan Do-Linh and Nicola Buck, our brilliant event producer Natalie McAdams of NAMEVENTS and all of the gracious staff at the Jonathan Club.



Wildlife along our inland waterways are getting ready for their Heal the Bay close-ups, writes staff scientist Dr. Katherine Pease.

If you live in L.A., you know it’s not too hard to find its wild side. We all know our share of party animals. But let’s talk about the real-life fauna  — the wildlife that has found a way to co-exist in the concrete jungle of L.A.

Heal the Bay has joined a new consortium of environmental groups working together to collect data about the amazing animals that call the area around the L.A. River home.

We’re working with the National Park Service to use “camera trapping” to monitor wildlife activity along the L.A. River corridor. Cameras are set up in the wild, triggered by motion and heat and left out for weeks to months at a time to document passing animals. It’s similar to the now-famous camera-trap photos of mountain lion P-22 in Griffith Park and other animals throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. (In the photo above, you can see a screen grab of an active coyote.)

The new photographic data will help us understand urban biodiversity and how animals use the L.A. River corridor. We expect lots of shots of our urban wildlife neighbors, including opossums, squirrels, coyotes and raccoons.  The information will help inform protections for wildlife, which will certainly be impacted by the city’s ambitious $1-billion plan to revitalize the river.

Some 39 cameras are being placed near the L.A. River from its headwaters in the Woodland Hills areas to south of downtown L.A. The sections are broken up into grids and different organizations are “adopting” grids. Heal the Bay has adopted grid #9. This grid covers the Sepulveda Basin Area and upstream from there to Reseda. Each grid has (or will have) three cameras and the cameras will be deployed for a month at a time in the months of April, July, and October.

Heal the Bay staff and volunteers are responsible for deploying the cameras, checking on them mid-month, and taking them out at the end of the month. We will help clean up the photos (remove photos of ourselves, vegetation, etc.) and then the images will be uploaded to Zooniverse. Anyone using the site can help tag and identify wildlife in the photos.

Heal the Bay has been monitoring water quality in the Sepulveda Basin recreation zone since 2015, so we are excited to see what wildlife is using this area in addition to the humans who boat, fish, and hike there.

The new camera-trapping initiative also supports recent City of L.A. efforts to promote and protect biodiversity in our region. Last year the City Council funded an index to assess urban biodiversity, policies and project to enhance biodiversity, and options for community engagement and outreach strategies. Heal the Bay is serving as a member of the Biodiversity Expert Panel to help inform this city-wide effort.

And the County of L.A. is just beginning an update of its L.A. River Master Plan. Heal the Bay is proud to be a member of the Steering Committee. We want to ensure that the L.A. River Revitalization plans include ecological and water-quality improvements. Data on wildlife and biodiversity of the River will guide planning by providing basic baseline information on what wildlife is there. We can use that information to set goals for ecological restoration and to assess success.

Stay tuned for more photos and updates over the upcoming months. Once the project is established in Zooniverse, we will share it with you all so you can pore through the many photos.

Other organizations participating include Friends of the Los Angeles River, The Nature Conservancy, LA Conservation Corps, Friends of Griffith Park, and others. The project is part of a nationwide effort to understand the impacts of urban development on wildlife. Currently, eight cities are part of this Urban Wildlife Information Network and another 12 cities are expected to participate in the next two years.

More information can be found in this post from the National Park Service.



Vice president Sarah Sikich exits Heal the Bay this week after 13 amazing years of service to our coastline and inland waterways. She’s moving to Carpinteria with her husband and young daughter, taking on a new challenge as a Director of Development for Principal and Leadership Gifts at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She’ll stay connected to the ocean, helping strategize and fundraise for marine and environmental sciences, among other duties. Here she shares some thoughts about her accomplished career at HtB:

A friend and mentor, Paula Daniels, recently asked me what I was most proud of during my Heal the Bay tenure. Surprisingly, I found it an easy question to answer.

Three campaigns immediately came to mind:

  • Helping design and establish Marine Protected Areas in Southern California;
  • Contributing to the passage and defense of California’s single-use bag ban;
  • Producing the State of the Malibu Creek Watershed report, with recommendations based on Heal the Bay-led citizen science.

That’s not to diminish the other important work I’ve had the privilege to complete over the past 13 years. There’s just something about these three efforts that resonates with me. Personally, I’m proud of the inner tenacity I found to reach the finish line in each race – often in the face of stiff opposition. Professionally, it feels good to have helped lead initiatives that will provide environmental protection in California and beyond for decades to come.

The campaigns were all incredibly complex and protracted, and I only played a small part in making them happen. But, they each challenged me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined, and helped me learn a lot about myself and qualities necessary to succeed in the environmental arena. Here are some lessons learned:

Plastic Bag Ban:  Policymaking isn’t a sprint …

When Heal the Bay first started to work on statewide plastic pollution prevention legislation in 2007, we sponsored a flotilla of five bills collectively called “The Pacific Protection Initiative.” Each bill addressed a specific aspect of pervasive plastic pollution: pre-production plastic pellets or “nurdles,” lost fishing gear, polystyrene food containers, toxic plastic additives and plastic bags. The bills all supported actions called out in the Ocean Protection Council’s landmark 2007 resolution on marine debris. Naively, I thought the plastic bag ban had the best chance of passage because it seemed like a no-brainer. Society already had a readily available alternative to single-use carryout bags — reusable bags! Alas, only one bill passed though — AB 258, which prohibits pre-production pellet discharge at plastics facilities.

It took a full decade to go from concept to reality for California to become a plastic bag-free state, thanks to the voter passage of Proposition 67 in November 2016. No single person or entity can claim ownership of this victory – it required leadership from dozens of municipalities, environmental groups, community groups, scientists, agencies, businesses, and legislators. Some close friendships grew through this effort, with people I will carry forwards with me, including Angela Howe, Kirsten James and Meredith McCarthy. And, for me the statewide bag ban is the archetype for the wise words of my friend and mentor, Leslie Tamminen: “Policymaking is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Even with a practical alternative, it took California 10 years to enact its plastic bag ban.

Marine Protected Areas: The value of compromise

Designing Southern California’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs) required enormous amounts of diplomacy and compromise. On one hand, environmental groups felt very strongly we had to protect our most valuable ocean habitats from fishing pressures; on the other, the angling community felt very strongly that reduced fishing access placed an unreasonable burden on its members. As one of 64 people negotiating about where these underwater parks should be located, progress could not be made without building alliances and finding common ground. It was difficult to hone the diplomacy skills required to figure out the moments to give in and when to stay firm. Finding common ground often proved elusive, given the diverse set of stakeholders – from commercial and recreational fishermen to environmental groups and municipalities.

I had seen the mediation and science-based deliberation prowess of my colleagues to the north – Karen Garrison, Kate Wing, and Kaitilin Gaffney — who had gone through a similar process establishing MPAs off California’s Central Coast. And, I worked hard to channel their knowledge and approach. Still, in the toughest of times I found myself frustrated, exhausted, and in one moment overcome by tears.

I now realize that the strenuous process made me tougher and stronger. All that hard work means that I can take my young daughter kayaking, snorkeling, and tidepooling within MPAs that I helped design for Southern California. I can show her rich areas of life that are more abundant and diverse, and now protected, because of the work so many devoted people, including her Mama, did. It is a source of pride.  I will forever be grateful for the support of colleagues who became friends during the toughest moments of MPA design and adoption – Dana Murray, Jenn Eckerle, Samantha Murray, Marce Graudins, Phyllis Grifman, Lia Protopapadakis, Calla Allison, and others.  Even when it took a circuitous route, the compromises made throughout this process allowed for California to go from less than 1% to roughly 16% of our coastal waters safeguarded by MPAs.

Malibu Creek Watershed Report: Take the high road

Heal the Bay’s niche in the water world is advocating for science-based solutions to environmental problems. Our methods vary, from making policy recommendations based on citizen science and scientific literature to partnering with university researchers to advance new studies to fill data gaps. Our recommendations often stir controversy – and downright anger. They often require behavior change and/or financial outlays that some opponents resist quite vigorously.

Heal the Bay’s effort to revitalize the Malibu Creek watershed marks one of the most involved and contentious projects on which I have ever worked. We evaluated over a decade of water quality and habitat data taken through our Stream Team citizen science program to inform a comprehensive report on the State of the Malibu Creek Watershed. The data compilation and analysis efforts required meticulous work by our entire scientific team, including Katherine Pease, Mark Gold, Shelley Luce, and Sarah Diringer. The final report included pages of recommendations, many of which have been realized. These include the restoration of Malibu Lagoon, certification of a strong Local Coastal Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains, and the current work of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District to greatly increase water recycling at its Tapia wastewater treatment facility. All these efforts will reduce pollution in the watershed and Santa Monica Bay, while protecting habitat and wildlife in one of L.A.’s most important natural areas. But as with many issues in the Malibu area, local residents dug in their heels to fight what they perceived as environmental overreach.

After we released the report and advocated for its policy recommendations, my colleagues and I experienced name-calling and bullying, and attempts to undermine our credibility from people who didn’t agree with its findings. I even had people viciously calling me out in the lineup at Malibu as I surfed the waves at First Point. At times it was tough to keep focus on the work and not feel deflated by all the personal attacks and distractions. But, the success of the report’s outcomes is a strong reminder that there is great value in taking the high road. It is incredibly rewarding see the positive results of projects with science on their side, like the Malibu Lagoon restoration that has greatly improved water quality and wildlife diversity in this important wetland habitat.

I feel great pride in the protections that I’ve helped advance for the vibrant coastal and ocean resources throughout Southern California. And, after over a decade of work at Heal the Bay, I realize that it’s not the natural resources that move me the deepest. It’s the dedicated people working so hard to protect what we love. I hold a particularly special place in my heart for the women water warriors that I’ve come to know through this work, as they are a powerful and impressive force of positive change-makers.

I had the treasured opportunity to work with Dorothy Green, Heal the Bay’s founding president, for a few years. In the brief time we shared, she taught me the importance of empowerment. She had an amazing ability to help people reflect on and find the individual value that they could bring to a cause, empowering them to take leadership in that area and be the change. She did that for me when I was fresh out of graduate school beginning work on my first project at Heal the Bay – ocean desalination.

By that time she had moved on from Heal the Bay, and I imagine that she had no idea who I was or what I could bring to the topic. But, she listened to me and made me feel valued, as if she knew I would provide meaningful contribution to the effort. I’ve carried that support with me throughout my time at Heal the Bay, and have tried to invest it back into Heal the Bay’s staff, interns, and volunteers as I’ve grown in my career. This type of empowerment made a huge difference for me, and I believe it is imperative to continue to cultivate in future leaders. We need to help smart young leaders grow and learn so they can be ready to conquer challenges yet to come.

As I wrap up my final days at Heal the Bay, it’s hard not to get lost in the check list of tasks to close out and set forth a path of transition. Of course that’s just the nature of work, but it’s also probably a bit of a coping tactic to avoid sitting with the deeper feelings of working at a place that has meant so much to me personally and professionally. Heal the Bay is such a big part of my heart and identity. Working on environmental issues about which I am deeply passionate, and around such amazingly bright and dedicated people has been a true gift that I will carry forward with me to new endeavors.