Heal the Bay celebra su 32nd aniversario albergando la mayor limpieza voluntaria en el condado de Los Angeles.
La organización medioambiental sin ánimo de lucro Heal the Bay hace una llamada a las personas voluntarias del condado de Los Angeles para que se unan al evento de limpieza más grande del mundo – El mes de la limpieza costera 2021 presentado por Portland Potato Vodka y Ocean Conservancy.
Se anima a los voluntarios y voluntarias a realizar limpiezas de playas y vecindarios por su cuenta durante todo el mes de septiembre, y como punto culminante, a unirse al evento especial del Día de Limpieza Costera (Coastal Cleanup Day) el sábado 18 de septiembre de 9 am a 12 pm en más de 25 sitios costeros, interiores y fluviales en area metropolitana de LA. Tenga en cuenta: para los grupos presenciales del Día de Limpieza Costera el 18 de Septiembre hay un aforo muy limitado debido a las precauciones de salud y seguridad de COVID-19, por lo que serán organizados por estricto orden de llegada. Usted puede saber de antemano cuándo se abre la inscripción para el voluntariado del Día de Limpieza Costera suscribiéndose al Boletín Azul de Heal the Bay.
El Mes de la Limpieza Costera invita a angelinos, angelinas y visitantes de toda la región a recoger basura y desperdicios dañinos y antiestéticos mientras exploran el medio ambiente, disfrutan del aire libre, y participan en un proyecto de ciencia comunitaria. El evento es parte de la Limpieza Costera Internacional que ha movilizado a millones de personas voluntarias por todo el mundo.
El año pasado, el equipo voluntario de Heal the Bay retiró 40,101 piezas de basura de los vecindarios, parques, senderos y playas, y por primera vez en la historia, los equipos de protección personal (máscaras y guantes) estuvieron entre los diez artículos de basura más encontrados en las zonas al aire libre favoritas de Los Angeles.
Las personas voluntarias pueden registrar la basura que encuentran usando la aplicación Clean Swell o manualmente a través de la tarjeta de datos de Heal the Bay. Los datos recopilados durante el Mes de la Limpieza Costera se utilizan para educar e informar a legisladores, administradores de saneamiento y desechos y comunidades sobre los tipos y fuentes de basura que hay en nuestro entorno. Las colillas, los utensilios, envoltorios y botellas de plástico y sus tapas siguen siendo los artículos más comunes que encuentran las personas voluntarias. Otros artículos comunes incluyen bolsas de plástico, popotes de plástico y agitadores, recipientes de plástico para llevar, tapas de plástico y recipientes de espuma para llevar.
Durante los últimos 20 años, los voluntarios y voluntarias de Heal the Bay han eliminado más de 4 millones de piezas de basura y escombros de las playas del condado de Los Angeles. Si bien la limpieza de playas es nuestra última defensa para erradicar la basura en la costa, todavía hay 8 millones de toneladas de plástico que se arrojan a nuestros océanos cada año. Eso equivale a un camión de basura lleno cada minuto. Heal the Bay exige una acción estatal para abordar esta crisis de contaminación y aboga por políticas y prácticas que reduzcan el plástico en el origen.
El Mes de la limpieza costera de Heal the Bay 2021 es posible gracias al apoyo de Portland Potato Vodka, Ocean Conservancy, la Comisión Costera de California, Water for LA, la ciudad de Santa Mónica y TIME TO ACT Entertainment.
Se recuerda la participación de manera segura seleccionando un lugar accesible, usando una máscara cuando estén en público, usando guantes al manipular la basura y participando solamente cuando gocen de buena salud para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de COVID-19. El aforo para el evento de Heal the Bay el 18 de septiembre es limitado debido a las precauciones de salud y seguridad, razón por la cual desde Heal the Bay se alienta a los voluntarios y voluntarias a participar en limpiezas autoguiadas durante todo el mes.
Heal the Bay es el coordinador oficial del Día de Limpieza Costera y el Mes de Limpieza Costera en el condado de Los Angeles en asociación con la Comisión Costera de California y Ocean Conservancy. La organización sin ánimo de lucro busca personas voluntarias de todas las edades y capacidades físicas para participar; no se necesita formación ni experiencia. Los organizadores animan a los voluntarios y voluntarias a “BYO” (traer sus propios baldes, bolsas reutilizables y guantes reutilizables para recoger la basura). Los suministros de limpieza están disponibles bajo pedido y por orden de llegada.
Acerca de Heal the Bay
Heal the Bay es la organización medioambiental sin ánimo de lucro líder en el condado de Los Ángeles y está dedicada a proteger las aguas costeras y las cuencas hidrográficas. La organización tiene una historia de 36 años en el uso de la ciencia, la educación, la defensa y la acción comunitaria para proteger el agua limpia. El grupo realiza dos limpiezas de playa por día de media. Heal the Bay también emite calificaciones de calidad del agua para cientos de playas de California cada semana a través del Beach Report Card con NowCast, proporciona calificaciones semanales de calidad del agua para docenas de áreas de agua dulce con el River Report Card, educa a miles de estudiantes locales cada año y opera el galardonado Heal the Bay Aquarium. Visite healthebay.org para obtener más información.
Action Alert! Support Heal the Bay’s top 3 California plastic-reduction bills. Call your reps and help get these environmental bills to the finish line. Learn about the bills, contact your representatives, and use our sample script below.
A few major plastic bills are up for a vote, and we need your help to urge your representatives to vote YES! This year, the California legislature introduced a suite of bills to fight plastic pollution called the Circular Economy Package. While not all of the bills have made it through the long and harrowing process, three are nearing the finish line and are priorities for Heal the Bay. These bills are heading to the floor for a vote, which means we only have a couple weeks left to get them passed! The bills each tackle plastic pollution in a unique way, so let’s break them down.
Senate Bill 343: The Truth in Environmental Advertising Act
Have you ever turned over a plastic cup or container to read the number on the bottom and noticed it’s encircled with a recycling “chasing arrows” symbol, only to then learn that item in fact could not be recycled? Us too, and it’s frustrating. This bill would make that illegal, and only permit the chasing arrows symbol to be used on items that are actually recyclable in California and never as part of a plastic resin identification code (those numbers that tell you what type of plastic the item is made from). SB 343 would help to clarify what items should go in the blue bin, reducing confusion among consumers, contamination, and waste volume while improving diversion rates, meaning less waste is sent to landfill and more is actually recycled.
Assembly Bill 1276: Disposable Foodware Accessories
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all begun relying much more heavily on takeout and 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 plastics, are clogging waste facilities and polluting our environment. AB 1276 would require that these food ware 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 from the source. This bill focuses on replacing harmful pollution-causing disposable plastic items with sustainable reusable and refillable alternatives. AB 962 helps pave the way for 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. The measure reduces waste and encourages the use of glass bottles over disposable plastic ones.
All of these bills will be up for a vote soon. Call your representatives and urge them to VOTE YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962.
“Hi, my name is __________ and I am a resident of __________ and a constituent of representative__________. As an active member of my community with concerns about plastic pollution, I urge you to vote YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962. As part of the Circular Economy Package, these bills will reduce plastic pollution in my community and protect my public health. Thank you for your time.”
UPDATE: The AB1066 bill has passed and is heading to the Governor’s desk to sign! Thank you for making your voice heard on behalf of clean freshwater in California.
Heal the Bay and Assembly Member Richard Bloom Introduce Legislation to Protect Public Health at Freshwater Swimming and Recreation Sites in California
We are so excited that Assembly Bill 1066 is progressing through the State legislature. It is the necessary first step towards protecting all Californians from pollution at their favorite freshwater recreation spots, and it has the potential to inspire more health protections and water quality improvements as we have seen at our ocean beaches.
Take Action and Call Your Reps:
Help us ensure AB1066 passes by callingyour California representatives and letting them know you support safe, freshwater swimming sites for ALL!
Don’t know who your reps are or how to contact them? Find your reps here. Click the provided link to go to their websites and contact info.
Sample call script: “Hi, my name is ___ and I live in ___ . As your constituent, I am urging you to please support clean water, safe freshwater recreation, and public health by voting YES on AB1066. Thanks for your time.”
Learn More About Assembly Bill 1066
Assembly Bill 1066 has been amended since its initial introduction. The scope of the bill has been reduced, but it still remains a critical and significant step forward in protecting the public health of inland communities and visitors to freshwater recreation areas. The reduced scope cuts down on the cost and approaches the issue in phases, tackling phase one in its current version and extending the initial timeline.
Defining and identifying priority freshwater recreation sites across the state, based on criteria such as frequency of use and equity-based metrics
Making recommendations for an appropriate monitoring program for these sites to the State Water Board
If AB1066 passes, future steps, which Heal the Bay is committed to working on, would include:
Developing and mandating a monitoring and public notification program for priority freshwater recreation areas across California (similar to AB411 for ocean beaches)
Identifying appropriate funding sources to support this new program, such as a state budget allocation or federal funding
Twenty-four years ago, the California Legislature took an important step forward in protecting public health at ocean beaches. AB411, authored by Assembly Members Howard Wayne (San Diego) and Debra Bowen (South Bay), established statewide water quality standards, required standard monitoring protocols, and set uniform mandatory public notification procedures in place during poor water quality events. Prior to AB411, ocean-goers did not have access to water quality information leaving them vulnerable to serious illnessessuch as stomach flu, respiratory illness and debilitating ear, nose, and throat infections, which are contracted from fecal contamination in the water.
AB411 requires weekly water quality monitoring from April 1 to October 31 as well as public notification of water quality conditions for beaches where annual visitation is 50,000 or greater or that are near storm drains. Heal the Bay was the primary sponsor for this bill, and ourBeach Report Card, started in 1991, helped grow support for it. AB411 is still the guiding piece of legislation for recreational water quality monitoring in California. Unfortunately, freshwater swimming and recreation areas are not regulated or monitored consistently in the same way that ocean beaches are. California has fecal pollution standards for freshwater, but monitoring for that pollution 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 statewide.
Rivers, lakes, and streams are popular areas where people swim, fish, kayak, wade, raft, and more. And for many people who do not live near the coast or for whom the coast is not easily accessible, these are the areas where they go to cool off and enjoy time with friends and family, and have a good time. People who visit freshwater swimming holes should be provided with the same protections that ocean beachgoers are given. People deserve to know if they might be exposed to fecal pollution so that they can adequately protect themselves. We are thrilled to announce that Assembly Member Richard Bloom, in partnership with Heal the Bay, has introduced legislation to address this public health disparity, AB1066.
AB1066 is the latest effort from Heal the Bay on addressing this issue. In 2014, Heal the Bay began monitoring freshwater recreation sites and providing that information to the public. We also began aggregating freshwater monitoring data from throughout LA County starting in 2017. This grew into our River Report Card (RRC), a free and publicly accessible website with updated water quality information throughout the greater LA region. Similar to the Beach Report Card, we have been using the RRC to advocate for increased monitoring and better water quality notifications across LA County. However, we want to take this to the next step and ensure people across the whole state have access to consistent water quality information that can help keep them safe.
Establish a definition for afreshwater recreation site based on frequency of use and identifysites state-wide to be monitored;
Require weeklymonitoring from Memorial Day to Labor Day for freshwater recreation sites by the owner/operator using a standardized protocol and metrics;
Require public notification online and through signage for hazardous water quality conditions.
“I am pleased to author AB1066 to address a key public health challenge that many Californians face in outdoor recreation– ensuring there are science and health based bacterial standards, ongoing water quality monitoring, and public notification for freshwater bathing where needed.
California is a magnificent state and one that affords all our communities with opportunities to recreate outdoors. Our lakes, rivers and streams should be enjoyed by residents throughout the state, but we need to ensure that their public health is protected while doing so.”
-Assembly Member Richard Bloom
The protections in AB1066 are long overdue and were afforded to ocean beaches nearly 25 years ago. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed on our work and ways to get involved.
Wildfires rage in California year after year, with increasing frequency and intensity. This is driven by the climate crisis creating hot, dry conditions for wildfires to start, spread, and burn out of control. Spring comes earlier, melting snow more quickly, and reducing water availability during summer, which is lasting longer with more extreme temperatures. Less frequent but more intense rain along with with the extra snowmelt in spring triggers vegetation growth; then the long, hot summers dry out that vegetation, covering the state with kindling. These climate impacts, coupled with a systemic departure from smart tribal land management practices like controlled burns, leaves us setting new wildfire records every single year, destroying ecosystems and devastating communities.
2021 has been the worst wildfire season to date, with over 1.5 million acres burned across California already, and the season has just begun. So far this year, the Pacific Northwest has felt the brunt of this wildfire season, but Los Angeles is not out of the woods. The fire season for Southern California typically spans October through December, which is why Los Angeles officials urge residents to be prepared.
Wildfires, particularly the extreme events that we are experiencing more and more each year, have both immediate and long-term impacts on the health of people and the environment. But did you know that wildfires also impact the health of our waterways? Heal the Bay interviewed two experts this week on the impacts of wildfires on public health and on water quality.
We learned a lot from these experts. By removing vegetation, wildfires increase sediment and pollution runoff, which can affect both recreational and drinking water. Wildfires also release smoke pollution into our atmosphere with contaminants that are harmful to public health. These airborne contaminants eventually settle out onto surfaces like streets, sidewalks, and rooftops, where they remain until stormwater washes it all into our waterways. Scroll down to find links to these recorded interviews or to check out the transcripts for both of these conversations.
We urge you to take climate action now, whether through global systemic change, or directly in your home or your neighborhood to prepare for emergencies and make your community more climate resilient. Take the climate challenge with us – start by picking one action you can take today. But don’t stop there! Consider the skills, experiences, and resources you have to offer, and create a personal list of climate actions.
One action you can take right now is to sign up and join Heal the Bay virtually at 6 PM on Monday August 30th to learn about the Cool City Challenge, and how to become a Cool Block Leader to make real change in your neighborhood to tackle the climate crisis.
Host: Alex Preso (Manager of Outreach, Heal the Bay)
Expert: Marisol Cira (Graduate Researcher in Civil and Environmental Engineering, UCLA)
Alex: Please introduce yourself and provide a little background on some of the work you do.
Marisol: I am a graduate researcher at UCLA in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, where I study the impacts of wildfires on beach water quality.
Alex: How does a wildfire impact water quality, specifically in the Ocean?
Marisol: Wildfires remove vegetation and alter the soil. When it rains, the vegetation and the soil that remain can no longer filter and retain the water like they used to. This increases the sediment and runoff that carry harmful contaminants and eventually make their way into our reservoirs, rivers, and oceans.
Alex: That is definitely not ideal! Would that have any impact on our freshwater and drinking water, too?
Marisol: Yes, wildfires do impact both recreational and drinking water quality. For example, they contaminate our groundwater because the contaminants can reach the water table, and the loss of vegetation can affect the aquifer recharge. In addition, the amount of sediment and runoff that flows into our reservoirs increases the maintenance needs and costs for that reservoir. Similarly, for our drinking water treatment plants, they might have to change operations to meet the water quality standards, and that also increases cost. Lastly, the contaminants that reach the beaches can be harmful to beachgoers and to wildlife.
Alex: Would you mind expanding on what kind of contaminants those are, and how they end up getting into our water?
Marisol: Studies have reported increases in nutrients, metals, water temperature, and turbidity, among other things. Following the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which burned approximately 100,000 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains, researchers reported increases in fecal indicator bacteria at beaches in Malibu. Although the fecal indicator bacteria are not harmful themselves, monitoring agencies do use them to indicate the presence of pathogens in water. What may be happening is that the wildfires, and the debris flows that follow, damage and disrupt the sewage infrastructure which contaminates downstream water quality with fecal matter. And, as mentioned earlier, the vegetation and the soil can no longer filter and retain these contaminants.
Alex: Heal the Bay tracks water quality testing at over 500 beaches statewide. Are wildfires impacting water quality right now?
Marisol: Water quality may return to normal within hours, or it could take up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the burn, the precipitation, and the contaminants. Specifically for fecal indicator bacteria, researchers reported elevated levels for up to 6 months. However, these levels are still being monitored as the burn area recovers.
Alex: I’ll give you a few more minutes to talk a little bit more about the research that you are doing, and the recent findings.
Marisol: We saw increases in the fecal indicator bacteria and turbidity following the Woolsey Fire, specifically after rain events, which is a concern for the health of beachgoers and wildlife. We hope that this research is able to help agencies protect our oceans and treat these contaminants.
Alex: Do you have any advice on how other people can get involved?
Marisol: Wildfire activity has increased globally and here in the Western US due to climate change. The frequency, duration, and season length are longer. It is important that we support candidates and measures that address climate change, and that we do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint.
Host: Kayleigh Wade (Associate Director of Campaigns and Outreach, Heal the Bay)
Expert: Gilmar Flores (Senior Manager of Programs and Research, Breathe Southern California)
Kayleigh: Please introduce yourself. What’s your name, and what is your role at Breathe Southern California?
Gilmar: Thank you so much for having me on today. Hello everyone, my name is Gilmar Flores and I am the Senior Manager of Programs and Research at Breathe Southern California.
Kayleigh: What is Breathe Southern California’s mission? Can you give us a quick run-down of your organization?
Gilmar: Breathe Southern California is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to promote clean air and healthy lungs. We do that through education, research, technology, and advocacy. Our organization has over 50 programs that target with our mission of clean air and healthy lungs. We offer this through youth programs in regards to asthma, environmental factors, and vaping; and through community programs in regards to wildfires, asthma, and lung disease. We also have a professional membership society called the Trudeau Society, where professionals in the field can attend lectures and network.
Kayleigh: That is important information to know. Every year we have a wildfire season, so thank you for sharing those resources. How does wildfire smoke play a role in the air pollution problems facing Southern California?
Gilmar: Back in 2019, California was home to 15 of the 30 places in the United States with the worst air pollution. Out of those 15, San Diego ranked #10; Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim ranked #6; and Riverside and San Bernardino ranked #2. On an average day, the air quality index of these cities in Southern California were in the moderate levels. For those who do not know what the air quality index is, it is an index that ranges from good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous. So if you think about that, an average day in those cities were not even in the good section of air quality. We’re in the moderate section. So when wildfires burn within 50 or 100 miles of those cities, it causes the air quality to be 5 to 15 times worse than normal, and often 2 to 3 times worse than normal even on a non-fire day. So during these wildfire seasons, the air quality index in these parts of the country can reach hazardous levels, which are very unhealthy not only for the vulnerable populations, but for everyone.
Kayleigh: What is the connection between environmental injustices, public health, and wildfires?
Gilmar: There are a lot of connections, but one that I will cover today is the resource availability that these vulnerable populations tend not to have. One example that I will focus on is asthma. During fires, air quality management districts will urge people to stay inside with windows closed and doors closed until smoke levels subside. This is mainly targeted to vulnerable populations such as the elderly, those who have respiratory illness or cardiovascular illness, and also for children. But the problem is that keeping the windows and doors closed only helps if your windows and doors can actually close and keep the smoke out. There are blocks of old apartment complexes, either in Los Angeles, Riverside, or the Bay Area where smoke still comes through, and some of these complexes do not have installed ventilation systems that can help remove the indoor toxins from these settings. We know that in low-income communities, there tends to be a lot of chronic disease, like asthma. So these communities are usually more effected by the wildfire seasons. There are more examples. If we had more time, we could talk about native American tribes located in areas where fires are more prominent. We could also talk about farm workers in Ventura County who are exposed. They still have to work during wildfires, and don’t always have the proper masks while working, so cannot avoid the harms of wildfire smoke.
Kayleigh: More often than not, people do not have access to those resources, especially in low income communities and communities of color. What are some tools you would recommend to promote wildfire resilience?
Gilmar: There are several steps you can take to keep your family or yourself safe during wildfire seasons. But the primary way to be resilient would be to stop yourself from breathing smoke, especially when there is a wildfire nearby. A few steps that you can take is to check air quality. You can use websites such as https://fire.airnow.gov to check the air quality, avoid going outside, close windows and doors, run the AC for circulation and check the filtration, use air purifiers at home if possible, avoid frying foods while inside, wear N-95 masks (don’t just buy is and have it there – when you purchase it, test it out and make sure it fits well and covers your whole face), be aware of any evacuation orders, and be prepared to evacuate.
Kayleigh: What are the long-term impacts of pollution from wildfires on communities that are already impacted by environmental racism?
Gilmar: These communities are already experiencing health hazard burdens by just living near landfills, power stations, and major roads. They often struggle with contaminated water supply or elevated airborne particulate matter. And then these communities are exposed to longer harsher air conditions because of wildfires. We see a correlation between these kinds of environmental exposures and cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes, pulmonary disease such as lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema, pneumonia exasperated among children and the elderly, low birth weights, and premature deaths.
Kayleigh: That information is very heavy, but thank you for sharing it. It is very helpful to pair that knowledge with the industrial activity that is happening in these communities. What types of pollutants, specifically, are found in wildfire smoke and ash?
Gilmar: When wood and other organic materials burn in wildfires, it produces a mixture of fine particulate matter and dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, or volatile organic compounds. One of the major pollutants found in wildfire smoke is particulate matter (P.M. 2.5), which is a mixture of tiny solid and liquid droplets suspended in the air, which can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. The concern is that these particles, which make up most of the plume of smoke from wildfires, can get deep into the lungs and cause biological damage. Particulates can also effect the cardiovascular system by causing inflammation, and can also effect the nervous system. Some of the smallest particles can even cross into the blood stream and travel through other parts of your body effecting other organs.
Kayleigh: At some point after a wildfire, the atmosphere eventually clears out. But just as throwing away a piece of trash does not actually mean that it is gone, all of that pollution must remain in our environment in some way. Where does all of that pollution go?
Gilmar: Unfortunately, the pollution will eventually fall down to the ground. It’s going to fall onto the floors of our homes, onto vehicles, buildings, trees, and plants. It can even extend far beyond where the fire was actually burning. As an example, I visited Crater Lake up in Oregon back in 2019, and from the top of that mountain we could see the smoke from California crossing over, because it does not have any boundaries. So this pollution definitely will fall onto the ground and will either disburse into the soil or into water, and eventually make its way out to the ocean, effecting not only plant life but also the wildlife that lives in the ocean.
Kayleigh: It’s so important to remember that everything is connected, and there are no boundaries. Pollution will remain in our environment and continue to impact our health. What long-term effects does wildfire smoke have on the ability of our communities to be resilient to the climate crisis?
Gilmar: Wildfires will have far reaching impacts and effects and will ripple through communities as climate change continues to occur. Habitats will continue to get damaged, both on land and also in to sea. Air quality will be degraded, causing long term health impacts not only for us humans, but also for other animals. There will also be drinking water supply contamination. However, communities can still employ a number of strategies to be more resilient to wildfires. This includes zoning and building policies, landscape regulations, vegetation and forestry management, and public education and preparedness campaigns.
Kayleigh: Is there anything else you’d like to add or talk about that we didn’t already cover?
Gilmar: Extreme wildfires are becoming a yearly thing, especially here in the west. There are a few websites that I want to mention so all of you can be prepared, not only for those who suffer from a lung disease, but for everyone, especially if you have loved ones who do. A good website to follow is https://fire.airnow.gov, which provides you the air quality map index and smoke information when there are fires. It will show you what the air quality index is at that time and lets you know if you need to close the windows and stay inside. Another website is https://ww2.arb.ca.gov. They provide a lot of resources there. I know a lot of individuals do not have the luxury of owning an air purifier, so they provide examples of things you can do to still improve indoor air quality in your home during wildfire season. And you can follow Breathe SoCal on our social media platforms for awareness, and for additional information for workshops on lung disease, asthma, or environmental stewardship.
Kayleigh: We actually have a question from the audience: Do either of you know why, in California, there isn’t more fire prevention even though it’s become a yearly phenomenon.
Gilmar: There are preventative measures taken. Some examples include energy companies like SoCal Edison providing grants to non-profit organizations to provide those resources to communities. But one of the things that definitely has to happen is for folks to speak to elected officials and share your ideas, possibly for future legislation.
Kayleigh: There is definitely a need for infrastructure and a need for policy if we want to be more resilient as a community as the climate crisis accelerates.
Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO, is joining a virtual townhall hosted by The Board of Public Works to discuss water quality and health impacts from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay.
Our communities continue to have concerns and questions regarding the impacts of sewage in the ocean. Here we answer the top 5 questions we’ve been hearing on social media.
Where does the sewage magically go, which makes it safe for swimming?
Once the sewage is discharged, it travels where the ocean currents take it – that could be further out to sea, closer to shore, or it may remain in place.
Over time, fecal matter and urine will be consumed by microorganisms. This is not desirable because sewage discharges are not natural and may alter the food chain. The microorganisms consuming sewage may also consume chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and toxins contained within the fecal matter and urine. These chemical compounds might then get transferred up the food chain as other organisms consume the sewage-eating ones. Particulates like plastic and toilet paper may get ingested by larger organisms in the water or the material might settle into the sediment.
When it is deemed “safe to swim” does that mean the amount of toxins could still be above what’s normally acceptable?
Human fecal matter contains many microorganisms that can get humans sick from a single exposure. That is why our beaches are tested regularly for the presence of fecal matter, and it’s why California has strict fecal-indicator bacteria standards. Recreational water quality standards do not take into account other forms of pollution like toxins and chemicals because, in general, it takes many exposures over a long period of time to become sick from toxins and chemicals. Heal the Bay continues to advocate for increased water quality monitoring, especially for “forever chemicals” like PCBs and DDT.
How could this impact dolphins and other animals in the Bay?
We are concerned about all organisms in the Bay, including dolphins, fish, algae, and invertebrates living in the sediment. All organisms have a niche and play a role in maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. The sewage discharges will likely change the abundance and distribution of smaller organisms first as they consume the sewage. Those changes to the bottom of the food chain may then impact species that are higher up on the chain like fish and dolphins. The other concern is that chemicals and pharmaceuticals contained in the sewage will also get transferred up the food chain as the sewage-eating microorganisms are consumed by larger organisms.
How often is water quality being tested? Who is conducting these water safety tests?
Right now, the beaches between Ballona Creek and Manhattan Beach are being tested every day. Under normal circumstances, all beaches in the Santa Monica Bay typically get monitored 2-3 times a week in the summer on average. Santa Monica Bay beaches are monitored for recreational water quality by four government agencies: LASAN, LA County Department of Public Health, Sanitation Districts of LA County, and the City of Redondo Beach.
How can we prevent this in the future?
There is an ongoing investigation into the cause of the damage to the Hyperion Treatment Plant in El Segundo, which triggered millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage to be released into the Bay. Once we know the cause(s) we can advocate for preventative measures. However, we don’t need an investigation to tell us what is obvious: the public was not sufficiently notified about the sewage discharge into the Santa Monica Bay. Heal the Bay is working to put pressure on LASAN and LA County Department of Public Health to investigate why public notifications were not forthcoming and how they can ensure more expedient public warnings.
Make your voice heard about the recent 17 million gallon raw sewage spill and the ongoing discharges of partially treated sewage into the Bay from Hyperion.
Tell the City of LA your concerns and that you demand they take immediate action to improve the emergency public notification protocols and implement preventative measures so this never happens again.
Act now: The City Council meeting starts at 10am on Tuesday, August 10.
Send in a comment to the Los Angeles City Council hearing tomorrow – use Council File # 21-0839: https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/ -or- Call 1 669 254 5252 and use Meeting ID No. 160 535 8466 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted into the meeting, press *9 to request to speak.
Watch and listen to the council meeting here: Cable TV Channel 35 https://clerk.lacity.org/calendar (213) 621-CITY (METRO) (818) 904-9450 (VALLEY) (310) 471-CITY (WESTSIDE) (310) 547-CITY (SAN PEDRO AREA)
UPDATE: 10:25 am Pacific Time on August 4, 2021.
The City of Los Angeles Sanitation & Environment (LASAN) launched a new webpage that addresses sewage discharge at the Hyperion Plant in El Segundo. It briefly covers the cause of the catastrophic incident and the recovery effort underway.
We want you to be aware of the data table (with multiple tabs) at the bottom of the page. It shows the pollutant levels in the effluent (via sampling results of what Hyperion is discharging from the 5-mile outfall), equipment status, odor monitoring results, offshore monitoring results for bacteria, and links to other data, which don’t appear to be working or filled in yet. “Effluent” is the treated wastewater that Hyperion releases to the ocean. In other words, influent is what comes into the plant (raw sewage and other debris), and effluent is what goes out of the plant (typically treated wastewater that has to meet certain standards).
We will be reviewing the data closely and providing a deeper analysis for you. But, our first impressions are that exceedances (aka violations) are occurring for multiple parameters in the effluent since July 11-12, indicating that LASAN is violating their permit by continuing to discharge inadequately treated sewage into the Bay, and is still not able to fully treat sewage. What is even more concerning is that the levels of certain pollutants appear to be increasing over the last couple of weeks (the weekly average numbers are getting larger). These high levels of total suspended solids (TSS), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), settleable solids, turbidity, and oil & grease may have long-term negative impacts on marine life and ecosystems.
Our team will provide more information about the pollutants and what the potential impacts could be for the Santa Monica Bay later this week.
Despite this alarming data, recent beach water quality tests have indicated the water in the Santa Monica Bay is safe for human recreation. All beach advisories, except for Avalon Beach on Catalina Island, have been lifted because water samples have not exceeded State water quality standards. This is good news for beachgoers, but we recommend that you always check the latest beach conditions at theLA County Department of Public Health’s website and Heal the Bay’sBeach Report Card.
LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) released an update last night that ocean water samples collected at the following locations have met State water quality standards and beach advisories have been lifted:
Dockweiler State Beach
Ballona Creek (Near Dockweiler Tower 40)
Culver Blvd storm drain
Imperial Highway storm drain
Westchester storm drain
Pico-Kenter storm drain (Santa Monica Beach)
Topanga Canyon Lagoon (Topanga Canyon Beach in Malibu)
A warning is still in place for Avalon Beach at Catalina Island (50 feet east of the pier). The Department of Public Health continues cautioning all to be careful of swimming, surfing, and playing in this area.
The discharge contains bacteria and viruses as well as organic matter that causes low oxygen levels in ocean waters – the impacts on human health and marine life can be significant and very damaging. LASAN should have notified the public and stakeholders who have been tracking the spill results closely for the last two weeks. We don’t know if LASAN has increased monitoring to assess the impacts of the partially treated discharge – that needed to start immediately – and going forward we need transparency in order to ensure appropriate actions are taking place to assess impacts, protect people and wildlife, and pursue fines and mitigation measures to the maximum extent.
Heal the Bay was founded in the 1980s by local activists who refused to accept partially treated sewage being dumped into the Bay by Hyperion. It’s now 30 plus years later – great progress has been made, but without watchdogs we’re at risk of repeating past mistakes.
The LA Regional Water Quality Control Board has taken immediate action to boost monitoring in the Santa Monica Bay.
Last night we received a notice from the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) issuing an order to the City of Los Angeles LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) Hyperion Treatment Plant to provide monitoring and reporting related to the discharge of sewage on July 11 and 12.
The order details how the flooding at the plant led to non-operational equipment resulting in reduced efficiency of treatment and a reduction in the quality of the discharge from the 5 mile outfall. The order documents that since the initial incident, Hyperion has violated its discharge permit by releasing effluent that is in exceedance of limits for parameters including total suspended solids (TSS), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), turbidity, and settleable solids.
These exceedances will result in fines – however, they could have negative impacts on human health and the marine environment. We are glad to see that the Regional Board is requiring daily offshore monitoring and submission of daily monitoring and status reports. The offshore monitoring appears to include four stations, each to be tested at three depths (<1m, 15 meters, and at the outfall depth). Testing at these locations must be done for 12 parameters, including bacteria levels, which are indicative of impacts to human health.
The latest advisory from the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) states that they are continuing to test shoreline bacteria levels daily.Heal the Bay scientists and experts will be reviewing the locations and frequency of testing today by DPH and LASAN to ensure that the frequency and spatial coverage is protective of public health. And we will continue to ask for rapid methods to be used for detection of bacterial pollution – the methods being used now take 18-24 hours to obtain results and then additional time for that information to get to the public. Rapid methods would allow for more real-time results to be available to the public.
The LA County Board of Supervisors and LA City Council members have initiated a full investigation into the 17 million gallon spill and continued discharges from Hyperion.
In addition to the Water Board’s actions outlined above, the LA County Board of Supervisors has requested a full investigation within 30 days (scroll down to our last update on 7/29 for more info). And the LA City Council is demanding a detailed report and action plan too, which includes instructing LASAN to “look for engineering opportunities during repairs to begin transforming the facility to recycle 100% of wastewater as part of the city’s Operation NEXT,” according to the Daily Breeze.
Is it safe to swim in the Bay today?
If you are deciding whether or not you should go into the water at LA’s beaches this weekend, we want to be clear: there are potential health risks at some locations.
Water quality tests from sites across the Bay have indicated high bacteria levels around El Segundo, Dockweiler, and Venice beach areas. These beach areas are under an advisory and should be avoided until tests indicate the water quality is good.
If you are heading to other areas in the Bay, we recommend that you check the latest beach conditions at the LA County Department of Public Health’s website and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card (so you can avoid beach areas impacted by bacterial-pollution issues). Conditions can change rapidly, so pay attention to beach postings and remember there is a 24-hour lag between water testing and posted warnings.
Message us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or contact us online if you need any help getting started with our Beach Report Card website or app — or if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.
UPDATE: 11:00 am Pacific Time on July 29, 2021.
One week after the massive raw sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay from the Hyperion Plant in El Segundo, the LA County Board of Supervisors met and heard an update on what went wrong, particularly related to notification protocols, and what next steps are needed. Heal the Bay staff called in to the hearing to speak on the item, but we were not able to because they cut off public comment after 1 hour for all items on the agenda. We were glad to hear at least three people speak passionately on the issue. We did send in a letter, supporting the motion as well as offering additional recommendations. You can read our letter and other public correspondence on the item here: http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/160317.pdf
The agenda item was heard around 3:15pm and included a brief presentation on the expedited report from CityGate that Supervisor Hahn requested right after the massive release of raw sewage. The findings of the report are quite disturbing and highlight multiple failures in communication and notification, primarily by the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH).
Next, Supervisor Hahn asked a series of questions of Dr. Barbara Ferrer (Director, LA County Dept Public Health), Gary Jones (Director, LA County Dept of Beaches & Harbors), and Fernando Boiteux, (Chief, LA County Lifeguard Division). Dr. Ferrer started by apologizing to the Board and the public; she took full responsibility for the failures and stated that DPH has already made fixes and will continue to improve training, processes, and protocols. Dr. Ferrer said that what happened was unacceptable and that it will never happen again. We appreciated hearing this apology and DPH taking responsibility for their actions (or lack of actions) and the commitment to do better.
Supervisor Hahn asked Dr. Ferrer about ensuring that public health – both in the water and in the community – continue to be protected as the Hyperion plant recovers from the major failure and undergoes construction to get back fully online. El Segundo neighborhoods are bearing the brunt of unbearable odors and LASAN is offering vouchers for air conditioners and hotel rooms for those affected. Dr. Ferrer assured Supervisor Hahn that water quality would continue to be tested and that the DPH team would be conducting door-to-door outreach in the community to ensure that affected residents know how to contact them, report odors, and get access to resources.
Gary Jones from Beaches & Harbors and Fernando Boiteux from County Lifeguards also answered questions about when they received notice of the sewage discharge, what could be improved in communications, and how beach closures should ideally proceed.
The motion was passed, which will result in a more in-depth After Action Report to be produced in 30 days. This follow-up report will detail what happened, where the failures occurred, and recommendations for fixing failures and ensuring this never happens again.
Heal the Bay greatly appreciated the updates and the transparency and accountability that the report and hearing provided. We will be actively following this issue and are engaging with Supervisor Hahn’s office and agencies to offer our recommendations and participate in the process. We will continue to hold agencies accountable and ensure that there are appropriate repercussions for the multiple failures that occurred.
A report was released this week, and made public today, about the recent 17-million gallon sewage spill from the Hyperion plant in El Segundo. “The handling of this release and the necessary public notification were failures, the initial report concluded.
The LA County Board of Supervisors will be hearing this expedited report on Tuesday, July 27 starting at 9:30 am. The Board will be voting on a motion to get this update as well as to request a more detailed “After Action” report within 30 days. Heal the Bay will be supporting this motion by sending in a letter and calling in to give oral testimony at the hearing. We will be suggesting additional recommendations, such as implementing rapid testing methods for water quality and tracking the plume through satellite imagery and other methods.
Watch the hearing, send in an email or a letter, and try to call in to the hearing to speak (this can be challenging to do as speaking time is limited).
We appreciate Supervisor Hahn’s leadership on this and hope to work collaboratively with County and City agencies to ensure this never happens again. And, if it does, that the public is notified immediately and effectively.
UPDATE: 9:10 pm Pacific Time on July 14, 2021.
This evening the LA County Department of Public Health lifted beach closures at Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach because water samples taken over the past two days have not shown dangerous levels of fecal-indicator bacteria. Based on these results, it appears safe at most locations in the Santa Monica Bay, but we urge you to exercise caution by regularly checking the LA County Department of Public Health website for water conditions and beach closures at PublicHealth.LACounty.gov/Beach and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card.
There are four sites in the Santa Monica Bay that currently do exceed State standards and coming into contact with water at these locations could cause illness – it is unclear if these exceedances are due to the sewage spill, recent rainfall, or something else:
Topanga County Beach at the Topanga Canyon Lagoon
Will Rogers State Beach at the Santa Monica Canyon storm drain
Santa Monica State Beach at the Santa Monica Pier
Manhattan County Beach at the 28th Street storm drain
Heal the Bay won’t let up on pushing for improvements that prevent sewage spills, advance water quality testing methods, and ensure public notifications happen swiftly and equitably. Thanks to everyone in the community for reaching out, voicing concerns, asking questions, staying informed, and most importantly protecting each other by sharing critical updates. This community is strong. It is amazing to see us spring into action. Thank you.
More to come on next steps, so you can take action to hold polluters accountable and to prevent this from happening again.
We have some preliminary good news to share — but don’t rush back to the water quite yet.
Water samples taken on Monday, July 12 by LA City Bureau of Sanitation & the Environment (LASAN) and LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) do not show high levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB). FIB, in significant quantities, indicate the presence of harmful pathogens in the water. Samples were taken at numerous locations at the shoreline and offshore, at various depths.
While this is good news, the beaches are still closed and will remain closed until two consecutive days of sampling show safe water quality. So, samples were taken again today and if they show low levels of bacteria, closures will be lifted tomorrow.
These results are very preliminary since the samples were taken Monday morning and early afternoon. Tides, currents and wind continue to move water around and we don’t know where the contamination may have ended up.
We also don’t know what the water quality was before the samples were collected – i.e. on Sunday evening and early Monday morning. It is possible that bacteria levels were higher then, and that people who got in the water were unknowingly exposed to poor water quality.
We appreciate that LASAN and DPH have been forthcoming with us on the results, but we feel strongly that this information should be spread widely to the general public, as early as possible. LA County DPH is responsible for notifying the public of dangerous levels of contamination. Given the significant amount of raw sewage released, nearby beaches should have been closed immediately. Delaying public notification by 12-24 hours is not acceptable.
We have heard from many concerned folx that they were at the beaches on Sunday evening and Monday all day without any knowledge of the spill, or any ability to take precautions. We will be working with City and County agencies to establish protocols that better protect public health. We also urge LASAN and DPH to use rapid methods to detect contamination more quickly. DNA-based lab methods like PCR are readily available and provide reliable results in minutes or hours, rather than the 24-hour process required for traditional bacterial monitoring. Using methods like these, in addition to traditional methods, as long as they are accompanied with good public notification, would help get critical information to our many ocean users much more quickly and could prevent significant harm to LA residents and visitors.
You can check the status of beach closures and conditions on LA County’s recorded information hotline, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-525-5662. Information about beach closures and conditions is also available online at: PublicHealth.LACounty.gov/Beach.
We will continue to track this issue and keep you informed.
When did the spill occur? The sewage spill started at 7 pm on 7/11/2021 and stopped at about 5 am on 7/12/2021. We are told by City of LA’s Bureau of Sanitation that the spill was stopped early this morning at around 5 am and all sewage is now being treated normally.
How much was spilled? We understand 17 million gallons of raw sewage were spilled through the 1-mile outfall, which is directly offshore from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in El Segundo.
What should the public do to protect themselves? We recommend the public stay out of the water in the Santa Monica Bay until further notice. Also, check the Beach Report Card for the latest ocean water quality alerts in California, and review the River Report Card for water quality information about freshwater swimming holes in Los Angeles County.
What issues does this cause to people and to ocean wildlife? Bacteria and viruses in raw sewage are extremely dangerous to people and can carry a variety of diseases. Debris such as tampons and plastic trash, when released into the Bay, can harbor bacteria and can cause entanglement of wildlife, but it seems in this case those debris were successfully filtered out of the spill before it made it to the Bay.
Why did this happen? We understand the inflow to the Hyperion plant in El Segundo was severely clogged and flooded the facility. The sewage left the facility untreated through the 1-mile pipe and outfall.
What is the source and how can we hold them accountable for pollution? This is fully the responsibility of the City of LA and their Bureau of Sanitation. The City normally does a very good job of containing and fully treating hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage every day – but when spills happen the City must move quickly to warn the public, and must discover and fix the cause to prevent future spills.
How can sewage spills be prevented? Proper maintenance as well as people not flushing trash items such as plastic trash into the system are the best preventative measures.
How often do sewage spills occur? The last major sewage spill in Los Angeles County was in 2015. However, smaller sewage spills are not an uncommon occurrence. In 2020 to 2021, seventy-five sewage spills sent a total of 346,888 gallons into rivers, lakes, and streams within Los Angeles County. One 222,542 gallon spill in February 2021 closed all the beaches in Long Beach; this area is monitored by Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card. A total of 39,621 gallons of sewage were spilled into the Los Angeles River, and 140 gallons were spilled into Las Virgenes Creek; both waterways are monitored by Heal the Bay’s River Report Card.
For more information about sewage spills, visit LA County Department of Public Health’s website.
The Los Angeles Regional Board has neglected their mission – to protect and enhance our water resources – by making polluting easier for dischargers rather than requiring action. The job of holding polluters accountable will once again fall on us.
The discharge of polluted stormwater in Los Angeles is regulated by the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board through the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. The Regional Board had an opportunity this month to improve the MS4 Permit during its decadal update, but in a disappointing decisionthe Board instead greenlit the continued degradation of waterbodies in our communities by adopting a MS4 Permit with the same loopholes as the ineffective 2012 Permit. This decision continues a pattern of insufficient accountability for stormwater dischargers and will only further delay progress, resulting in stagnant or even declining surface water quality.
Permittees asked for a weaker permit with fewer requirements and a longer timeframe
The four-day hearing (see our Twitter updates) began with testimony from public officials who once again lamented their limited access to competitive funding sources for stormwater projects. Elected officials represent cities, which are permittees under the MS4 Permit. They are not community voices – they are the voice of the dischargers asking for a weaker permit with fewer requirements and a longer timeframe.
We understand that completing projects is difficult, particularly for cities with smaller budgets. However, the MS4 Permit has been around for 30 years, and we have yet to see a significant reduction in stormwater pollution. We cannot afford to wait another 30 years before we start to see improvements. Luckily, there are funding opportunities available right now through local, state, and even federal programs. Additional resources include opportunities for collaboration between the cities, supplemental work from non-profits and community groups looking to build projects in their neighborhoods, support from Regional Board staff, and information from LA County’s WHAM Taskforce and Watershed Coordinators who are all assigned to identify and leverage funding sources.
Most importantly, the benefits of compliance far outweigh the costs. Achieving clean water is not just a respectable goal, but a federally mandated law to protect communities and ecosystems from polluted water. Unfortunately, water quality has stagnated, even gotten worse in some areas, as our City and County governments have fallen behind schedule. Yet, there are no penalties for their inaction.
Members of the public asked for clean water, better regulation, and more transparency
The Board also heard from dozens of community members asking for clean water, better regulation of stormwater pollution, and more transparency in the regulatory process. We heard from Eva Pagaling, whose tribes (Samala Chumash and Yakama) have historically gathered materials, medicines, and food in the Santa Clara River watershed and coastline. Eva reminded us that these tribes shoulder the burden of MS4 pollution, and urged the Regional Board to hold accountable those responsible for polluted discharges. We heard from Itzel Flores Castillo Wang, a community member and organizer from Boyle Heights in East LA, supporting a transparent permit that holds permittees accountable to implement multi-benefit and nature-based projects where they are needed most. We heard from so many folks demanding action now, in the form of a SMMART Permit that holds polluters accountable and that allows the public to follow progress and engage in the process.
Heal the Bay gave a presentation alongside partners at LA Waterkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council outlining the strengths and flaws of the proposed 2021 Regional MS4 Permit. We supported the watershed approach because water flows throughout watershed boundaries; therefore, the approach to reducing pollution must be watershed-wide without stopping at city limits. The optional watershed management program within the permit framework allows for that watershed approach. However, we did not support the “deemed in compliance” language (also known as the “safe harbor”), which shields polluters from enforcement. A SMMART permit can invest in our communities through multi-benefit projects, but only if it is actionable, with enforceable deadlines so that those benefits can become a reality in our communities and not just a hope for the future.
“The small list of projects presented by permittees are happening because there are TMDLs with deadlines and consequences built in. There is no justification for maintaining the safe harbors in this permit. Board staff has already allowed plenty of flexibility…” – Dr. Shelley Luce.
The Water Board is supposed to preserve and enhance water quality for present and future generations; instead, they chose to excuse permittees, once again, for their lack of action.
The Regional Board voted to allow continued degradation of our waterways
As final deliberations began on July 23, it became apparent that Board members were more concerned about the complaints of the permittees than about the demands of community members. Some Board members went even further to bow to dischargers by proposing motions to extend deadlines (which thankfully failed, but with a narrow 4-3 vote against) and completely remove numeric water quality requirements (which failed with a 5-2 vote against). Finally, the Board voted to approve a 2021 Regional MS4 Permit that includes the same safe harbors that made the 2012 MS4 Permit so ineffective, even after dozens of community members asked them directly for clean water and more accountability.
Some improvements were made to increase transparency, including a final direction to Regional Board staff to create a single online portal for all annual reports; however, without even the possibility of enforcement by the Board, there is no accountability for polluters.
It is up to all of us to Take LA by Storm and push for progress together
One board member claimed that “the safe harbors are an expression of trust and confidence in permittees.” But knowing the permittee’s record of inaction, we do not share that trust. By keeping the safe harbors, the Board has effectively decided not to enforce this critical permit. So now, the job of holding permittees accountable will once again fall on us, the concerned residents and nonprofit groups of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. We can take inspiration from Margaret Mead and know that, together, our actions can make a difference.
Sign up to Take LA by Storm to receive updates as the permittees submit their semi-annual reports. We will continue to search for ways to hold polluters accountable while we track progress. If implementation continues to lag, we will demand action together.
At Heal the Bay Aquarium, we believe that there are 52 Shark Weeks in a year, so we’re keeping all the #SharkWeek learning going. It’s important to share and teach facts, not fear, as we all work towards protecting our ocean environment and the animals that call it home. Shark conservation is a 24/7 job, so let’s continue this deep dive into learning more about these critically important, and often misunderstood, creatures.
California is known for its incredible richness and variety of ecosystems—both on land and under the sea. Venture across the Golden State and you’ll cross coastal wetlands, lush wooded forests, and the vast deserts in Death Valley. Dive below the waters off our coastline and see the fairytale-like beauty of our kelp forests, the infinite expansiveness of the sandy seafloor, and the rocky shore dynamics of our tide pools. From abalone, to sea lions, hermit crabs to Mola mola, there is a wealth of marine diversity right in our Bay.
So, who are our elasmobranch neighbors? In our local waters, there are at least 23 different kinds of sharks, and over a dozen types of rays and skates (the triangular-shaped Rajidae—not the retro kind spotted weaving down the boardwalk). Wade into our shallower waters and you may see the slim, spotted shadow of a leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) sashay by, on the hunt for crustaceans and clams on the sandy bottom. Head out a little further with the surfers and you may even get the rare, incredible opportunity to spot our resident (albeit juvenile) landlord: the great white shark (Carcharodon Carcharias). From long-tailed thresher sharks, to the chiropteran-like bat rays, you never know what you’ll “sea” when you explore our coast. At our Aquarium, we exhibit marine species that you can find right next door in Santa Monica Bay. Learning about these local animals allows our visitors to see what our clean water mission is all about: not only protecting public health, but also protecting the thousands of different kinds of marine life that call it home—from seabirds and fish, to marine mammals and phytoplankton—all are part of the southern California ecosystem.
Let’s meet the locals in our Sharks & Rays Exhibit!
Swell sharks (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) are a visitor favorite because when you’re observing them in the exhibit, you’re now in the “Splash Zone”, due to the fact that they literally spit water while they swim around. They’re so aptly named because when agitated, swell sharks will hold on to their caudal fin with their teeth and swell up with water, making it more difficult for predators to bite them or pull them from their rocky den. Ever seen a Mermaid’s Purse? Swell sharks are also oviparous, which means they lay keratinous egg cases. Developing swell shark pups take about 9-12 months until they’re ready to hatch into adorable, 6 inch (15 cm) long baby sharks. Check out Baby Shark Watch to see a swell shark grow from egg to pup!
Horn sharks (Heterodontus francisci), are named for the large horns in front of each dorsal fin. These horns are used for protection against predators, making horn sharks extremely difficult to eat. Imagine trying to swallow a sandwich with the toothpicks still holding it together—you’d have a pretty hard time getting that down. These oviparous sharks also have a uniquely shaped mouth that allows them to “suck” in food and forage through sand for a tasty crab or some other buried seafloor invertebrate. The scientific name Heterodontus comes from the Greek words “heteros” and “odont”, meaning “different teeth”. Horn sharks have sharp pointy teeth in the front, and crushing molar-like teeth in the back. This is why they’re one of the few shark species that can actually eat a spiky sea urchin (sometimes staining their teeth with the urchin pigment).
Round stingrays (Urobatis halleri), lovingly known as “sea pancakes” by our visiting students, are commonly found in sandy bottom habitats, and typically hang around intertidal areas down to depths of about 15 m (50 ft). Stingrays are viviparous (live birth), and will have between 1-6 pups that are about the size of the palm of your hand (2.5-3 inches or 6-7.5 cm).
To the right, to the right…to the left, to the left…now shuffle! Ever heard of the Stingray Shuffle? It’s actually the best way to protect both yourself and unsuspecting stingrays that may be camouflaging in the sandy bottom below you when you head into the waves. If you slide or shuffle your feet in the sand as you enter and move about the ocean, rays will feel the movement from your feet, and will move somewhere else to avoid contact. If you walk in normally (especially around this time of year during stingray mating season), you may accidentally step on a ray, which will then defend itself by using the venomous barb on their tail. The venom of the round stingray is not dangerous to humans; however, it is extremely painful. If stung by a ray, the best course of action is to seek help from the nearest Lifeguard, and soak the affected area in very hot water. This actually denatures the proteins in the venom, and will hopefully help provide some relief from the sting. This is also the best treatment for sea jelly stings, since contrary to popular myth (and TV sitcoms), peeing on the jelly sting can actually make the pain worse!
During our closure throughout 2020, we were busy at work refreshing our exhibits and creating fun, new experiences for our visitors for when we could safely reopen. We o-fish-ally re-opened our indoor gallery on June 12, 2021, and visitors can now enjoy our upgraded, interactive Sharks & Rays Touch Tank Exhibit! Get up close and feel the sandpapery touch of a swell shark’s skin from their dermal denticles (“tooth-skin”), or the velvety softness of a round stingray. Gentle interactions with these animals helps to dispel long-held myths about sharks being scary, mindless, man-eaters.
Lurking. Stalking. Chasing. Attack. These are all familiar (and unfairly given) terms when we see any news about encounters between humans and sharks. Sharks have been around on this planet for at least 400 million years. They’re a keystone species, which means as apex (top) predators, sharks are critically important to a healthy ecosystem and marine food web. Just like the tumbling of a Jenga tower when we pull out a single, structural-load holding piece, the removal of sharks can decimate the delicate balance of the ocean environment. We’ve seen the same impacts on land ecosystems with the human-led removal of wolves from Yellowstone National Park. Without these apex predators keeping elk populations in check, the land suffered from erosion and deforestation—affecting more than 200 other species of animals living in that ecosystem. Sharks usually take a long time to reproduce, and most don’t have that may young at a time. Female great white sharks usually aren’t even sexually mature for at least 1-2 decades, and their young take more than a year to gestate. Sharks are already vulnerable to the impacts of pollution and climate change, and data shows that worldwide shark populations have declined by almost 99% due to the additional stress of overfishing.
So, what can we do to help protect sharks? One super easy way is to spread facts, not fear. Even though encountering sharks in the wild can still be a scary thought, sharks have no desire to eat us (honestly—do we really think we taste that good?). Sharks are actually probably much more afraid of you than you are of them, and when they encounter people, their usual reaction is to swim away, hide, or out of simple curiosity just check out this silly-looking animal scooting around the water. Being conscientious about sustainable seafood choices, and going zero-waste and plastic-free as much as possible can go a long way towards shark protections. Destructive fishing methods not only cause habitat loss, but harms millions of sharks each year as bycatch. Just looking at the Pacific Ocean alone, an estimated 3.3 million sharks are accidentally caught each year as bycatch on longlines that were targeted for other fish. Supporting bans on shark fin products and shark finning can also add protections to critically declining shark populations, because we can eliminate the market for fins by passing laws prohibiting their sale. Globally, at least 70-100 million sharks are killed each year just for the inhumane shark fin trade. Heal the Bay, along with partners and supporters, successfully led the charge to ban the sale and possession of shark fins in California in 2013. Right now, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 737) is still waiting for a vote in the Senate. The House passed this bill in November 2019, and the bill would “prohibit the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States”. Your voice and action can help protect what we all love. Helping to teach others about the importance of sharks is a great way to help change the way people think about sharks. For the record, we think they’re “swell”.
Learn more about shark conservation with these great organizations and researchers:
On the heels of the 17-million-gallon sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay on July 11-12, Heal the Bay and the World Surf League—two Santa Monica-based organizations—are partnering to expand Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card with NowCast to give beachgoers more information, more swiftly, about potential risks from poor ocean water quality at California’s most popular beaches and surf spots.
Heal the Bay and the World Surf League (WSL) are announcing a multi-year partnership in support of Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, activating local surfers to protect the health of 150 million beachgoers in California, and increasing surfing community outreach through social media and local competition events in California.
Summer is here, temperatures are hot, and more people are flocking to the beach. With roughly a thousand miles of shoreline, California has one of the longest and also most diverse coasts of any state in the USA. California offers an incredible array and variety of beaches and waves. Several offer pristine bays with 30-feet visibility underwater, others iconic views and world class waves.
While the waves may look clear, many beachgoers have no idea they might be swimming in a bacteria-polluted area, especially near piers, storm drains, and enclosed harbors with poor water circulation. One in 25 beachgoers will get sick swimming or surfing in polluted water near a flowing storm drain. Youth and seniors are particularly vulnerable to illnesses related to bacterial pollution.
“As a surfer, I have spent a ton of time in the water since I was a little kid. The water quality at my local beaches is something I have always been observant of. Unfortunately, there have been many times where the water quality has seemed very low and I’ve gotten sick from surfing in dirty water. I’m thrilled the World Surf League is partnering with Heal the Bay on the Beach Report Card for California. Everyone deserves access to clean water to surf, swim, and enjoy this precious resource – our one ocean!” says Conner Coffin, WSL Championship Tour surfer.
The Beach Report Card is Heal the Bay’s education, advocacy, and public health notification tool for people concerned about the water quality at their favorite beaches across the state of California. The latest beach water quality grades are displayed alongside historical trends. The program also has science and policy initiatives to improve water quality, advance water quality testing methods, and ensure beachgoers have equitable and immediate access to beach water quality information through environmental and public health legislation and regulation.
Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO & President says, “We’re excited to announce our partnership with the World Surf League. Clean ocean water has multiple benefits. It sustains healthy ecosystems and thriving wildlife, it mitigates impacts from the climate crisis, and it provides a safe place to enjoy the outdoors and cool off. We thank our partners at the World Surf League for working together with us to protect clean water starting in Santa Monica, stretching up and down the California coastline, and rippling out globally.”
The World Surf League is sponsoring the Beach Report Card for three-years, supporting the popular Annual Report, which highlights the coveted Honor Roll list as well as the notorious Beach Bummers list. The World Surf League is also investing in the growth of NowCast, Heal the Bay’s daily water quality prediction program.
“The WSL is incredibly proud to partner with Heal the Bay to provide tools and resources such as the Beach Report Card for all ocean lovers to be informed about water quality prior to heading to their favorite beach. As a global sports league, the future of our sport depends on a healthy ocean. Our focus as a league is to protect the ocean and beaches by inspiring climate action, preventing pollution, and conserving our coasts through campaigns like We Are One Ocean,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO.
Heal the Bay is expanding NowCast to include 40-50 beaches over the next three years.
About Heal the Bay and the Beach Report Card
Heal the Bay is an environmental nonprofit dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds in Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy, and clean. We use science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill our mission.
Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is the only comprehensive analysis of coastline water quality in California. We provide water quality grades for more than 700 beaches weekly from Washington to Mexico during the peak beach-going season, with approximately 500 locations in California. Each location is assigned an A to F grade based on the health risks of swimming, surfing, and entering the water at that location.
Established in 1976, the World Surf League is the home of the world’s best surfing. A global sports, media and entertainment company, the WSL oversees international tours and competitions, a studios division creating over 500+ hours of live and on-demand content, and via affiliate WaveCo, the home of the world’s largest high performance, human-made wave. Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, the WSL has regional offices in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and EMEA. The WSL is dedicated to changing the world through the inspirational power of surfing by creating authentic events, experiences, and storytelling to inspire a growing, global community to live with purpose, originality, and stoke.
Esta es una historia en desarrollo y les mantendremos actualizados a medida que vayamos teniendo más información.
¿Cuándo sucedió el vertido?
El vertido de aguas residuales comenzó el 11 de Julio de 2021 a las 7 pm y paró sobre las 5 am del 12 de Julio de 2021. La Oficina de Saneamiento de la ciudad de LA nos dijo que el vertido había parado sobre las 5 am y que todas las aguas residuales ya están siendo tratadas normalmente.
¿Cómo fue de grande?
Al parecer 17 millones de galones de aguas residuales sin tratar se vertieron a través del desagüe de 1 milla, que se encuentra situado directamente enfrente de la planta de tratamiento de aguas Hyperion en El Segundo.
¿Qué playas han sido afectadas?
Ahora mismo Dockweiler State Beach y El Segundo Beach están cerradas al público. La Ciudad de Los Angeles y el Departamento de Salud Pública del Condado de Los Angeles están haciendo pruebas en las playas y el agua de la bahía de Santa Monica. Se puede encontrar más información en la página web del Departamento de Salud Pública del Condado de Los Angeles.
¿Qué puede hacer el público para protegerse?
Recomendamos al público que se mantenga fuera del agua en la Bahía de Santa Monica hasta nuevo aviso. Además, consulte el boletín de calificaciones de las playas para conocer las últimas alertas sobre la calidad del agua del océano en California, y el boletín de calificaciones de río para obtener información sobre la calidad del agua dulce en las pozas del condado de Los Ángeles.
¿Qué problemas causa esto a las personas y a la fauna marina?
Las bacterias y los virus de las aguas residuales no tratadas son extremadamente peligrosas para la gente y traen consigo una variedad de enfermedades. Restos como tampones o basura plástica, cuando quedan sueltos en la bahía, pueden albergar bacterias y pueden enredar a la fauna, aunque parece ser que en este caso ese tipo de restos quedaron filtrados antes de llegar a la bahía.
¿Por qué ha sucedido esto?
Tenemos conocimiento de que la toma de entrada a la planta Hyperion de El Segundo estaba obstruida de forma severa, lo que causó una inundación en las instalaciones. Las aguas residuales salieron de la instalación sin tratar a través de la tubería de 1 milla y el desagüe.
¿Cuál es el origen y cómo podemos hacer que se hagan responsables del vertido?
Lo que ha pasado es responsabilidad de la Ciudad de Los Angeles y su Oficina de Saneamiento. La ciudad normalmente hace un buen trabajo conteniendo y tratando cientos de millones de galones de aguas residuales cada día – pero cuando se produce un vertido la Ciudad debe actuar deprisa para avisar al público, y debe descubrir y arreglar la causa para prevenir más vertidos.
¿Cómo se pueden prevenir los vertidos de aguas residuales?
Las mejores medidas preventivas son un buen mantenimiento del sistema y un uso debido de los inodoros por parte del público (no tirando en ellos basura como plásticos).
¿Cada cuanto tiempo suceden estos vertidos de aguas residuales?
Heal the Bay releases scientific reports and annual bacterial-pollution rankings for hundreds of beaches in California and dozens of freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County during 2020 – 2021.
The thirty-first annual Beach Report Card study assigns A-to-F letter grades for 500 California beaches based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution in the ocean measured by County health agencies. In addition, we ranked water quality at 28 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County during summer 2020 and shared findings from the third annual River Report Card.
Highlights from the Beach Report Card
Hotter days are here! Beach days and river trips are at an all-time high. The good news is California beaches had excellent water quality in summer 2020. 93% of the California beaches monitored by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade, which is on par with the five-year average.
Even so, our scientists remain deeply concerned about ocean water quality. Polluted waters pose a significant health risk to millions of people in California. People who come in contact with water with a C grade or lower are at a greater risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes.
Beaches and rivers usually have high-risk water quality following a rain event. Less rain typically means that reduced amounts of pollutants, including bacteria, are flushed through storm drains and rivers into the ocean. However, this wasn’t the case this past winter. Rainfall across coastal counties in California was 41 percent lower than the historical average. Yet only 57% of California beaches had good or excellent grades during wet weather, which was worse than average. The lower grades are in part due to the high percentage of “first flush” samples in the wet weather dataset.
“As a surfer, I have spent a ton of time in the water since I was a little kid. The water quality at my local beaches is something I have always been observant of. Unfortunately there have been many times where the water quality has seemed very low and I’ve gotten sick from surfing in dirty water. I’m thrilled the World Surf League is partnering with Heal The Bay on the Beach Report Card for California. Everyone deserves access to clean water to surf, swim, and enjoy this precious resource – our one ocean!” –Conner Coffin
California’s Beach Bummer List Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer List ranks the most polluted beaches in California based on levels of harmful bacteria in the ocean. The 2020-2021 Beach Bummer List includes beaches in San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Humboldt, and Santa Cruz Counties.
Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Tijuana River mouth – San Diego County
Foster City, Erckenbrack Park – San Mateo County
Capitola Beach, west of jetty – Santa Cruz County
Foster City, Gull Park – San Mateo County
Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, between Lifeguard Tower and Boat dock – Los Angeles County
Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, 3/4 miles north of Tijuana River – San Diego County
Clam Beach County Park at Strawberry Creek – Humboldt County
Foster City, Marlin Park – San Mateo County
Candlestick Point, Windsurfer Circle – San Francisco County
East Beach at Mission Creek – Santa Barbara County
California’s Beach Honor Roll List Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll List includes 35 California beaches that scored perfect water quality grades year-round (compared to 42 beaches in the prior year). Most beaches on the Honor Roll are in Southern California because many Counties in Central California and Northern California do not sample frequently enough during the winter months. Orange County had the most beaches on the Honor Roll. Los Angeles, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Alameda Counties also had beaches with perfect water quality grades.
Crown Beach, at Sunset Rd. – Alameda County
Royal Palms State Beach – Los Angeles County
Leo Carrillo Beach, at Arroyo Sequit Creek – Los Angeles County
Puerco State Beach, at creek mouth – Los Angeles County
Las Flores State Beach, at Las Flores Creek – Los Angeles County
Broad Beach, at Trancas Creek – Los Angeles County
Escondido State Beach, at Escondido Creek – Los Angeles County
Nicholas Beach, at San Nicholas Canyon Creek – Los Angeles County
Newport Bay, Promontory Point – Orange County
Crystal Cove (CSDOC) – Orange County
Newport Beach, at Orange Street – Orange County
Newport Beach, at 52nd/53rd Street – Orange County
Balboa Beach Pier – Orange County
Balboa Beach, The Wedge – Orange County
Crystal Cove – Orange County
1000 Steps Beach, at 9th St. – Orange County
North Aliso County Beach – Orange County
Treasure Island Beach – Orange County
Carlsbad, at Encina Creek – San Diego County
Carlsbad, at Palomar Airport Rd. San Diego County
Solana Beach, Tide Beach Park at Solana Vista Dr. – San Diego County
Guadalupe Dunes – Santa Barbara County
El Capitan State Beach – Santa Barbara County
China Beach, at Sea Cliff Ave. – San Francisco County
Ocean Beach, at Lincoln Way – San Francisco County
Sewers at Silver Shoals Dr. – San Luis Obispo County
Morro Bay City Beach, at Atascadero – San Luis Obispo County
Pismo State Beach, 330 yards north of Pier Ave. – San Luis Obispo County
Hollywood Beach, at Los Robles St. – Ventura County
C.I. Harbor, at Hobie Beach Lakeshore Dr. – Ventura County
Oil Piers Beach, south of storm drain – Ventura County
Silverstrand, at Sawtelle Ave. – Ventura County
Ormond Beach, 50 yards north of Oxnard Industrial drain – Ventura County
Ormond Beach, at Arnold Rd. – Ventura County
Faria County Park, at stairs – Ventura County
Highlights from the River Report Card
Heal the Bay graded 28 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County within the L.A. River, San Gabriel River, and Malibu Creek Watersheds during summer 2020. 70% of the freshwater grades indicated a low risk of illness, 17% indicated a moderate risk of illness, and 13% indicated a high risk of illness.
L.A.’s Freshwater Fails List Top 9 river recreation sites in Los Angeles County that are high-risk places to swim or boat.
1. Tujunga Wash at Hansen Dam – Upper L.A. River Watershed
2. L.A. River at Rattlesnake Park – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
3. San Gabriel River Below North and West Forks – San Gabriel River Watershed
4. L.A. River at Middle of Sepulveda Basin Recreation Zone – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
5-6. Bull Creek – Upper L.A. River Watershed
5-6. Lake Balboa Boat Ramp – Upper L.A. River Watershed
7. Lake Balboa Outlet – Upper L.A. River Watershed
8. L.A. River at Balboa Blvd. – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
9. Switzer Falls – Upper L.A. River Watershed
L.A.’s Freshwater Honor Roll List Top 10 river recreation sites in Los Angeles County that are low-risk places to swim or boat.
1-8. San Gabriel River East Fork at Graveyard Canyon – San Gabriel River Watershed
1-8. L.A. River at Benedict St. (formerly Frogspot) – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
1-8. Gould Mesa – Upper L.A. River Watershed
1-8. Hansen Dam Lake – Upper L.A. River Watershed
1-8. San Gabriel River Lower North Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed
1-8. Sturtevant Falls – Upper L.A. River Watershed
1-8. San Gabriel River Upper North Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed
1-8. Big Tujunga Creek at Vogel Flats – Upper L.A. River Watershed
8-10. San Gabriel River Upper East Fork – Upper L.A. River Watershed
8-10. San Gabriel River Upper West Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed
Equity and Access The COVID-19 pandemic, a record-setting wildfire season, and extreme heat during summer 2020 highlighted the dire need for equity in our waters, and exposed major systemic failures; open spaces, including beaches and rivers, are not equally accessible to all people. Low-income communities of color tend to be the most burdened communities, bearing the brunt of environmental pollution and limited access to open space.
“A day at the beach and the river shouldn’t make anyone sick,” said Dr. Shelley Luce, President and CEO of Heal the Bay. “With the closures, stress, and uncertainty of the pandemic, it is no surprise that people sought out our local waters in 2020. While we’re thrilled about the excellent water quality across California, our marine ecosystems are still threatened by climate change and other pollution sources. This is alarming as we expect people to increasingly seek out ocean shorelines and freshwater swimming holes to cool off as temperatures rise. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card and River Report Card give access to the latest water quality information and are a critical part of our science-based advocacy work in support of strong environmental and public health policies that improve the health and resilience of our ocean, our rivers, and our communities.”
Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches and freshwater areas with poor water circulation.
Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks, and piers.
Stay out of the water for at least 72-hours after a rain event.
Follow all local health and safety regulations, including all local pandemic-related regulations.
Check in with the lifeguard or ranger on duty for more information about the best places to swim.
About Heal the Bay Heal the Bay is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1985. We use science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill our mission to protect coastal waters and watersheds in Southern California. Heal the Bay Aquarium, located at the Santa Monica Pier, welcomes 100,000 guests annually and hosts a variety of public programs and events that highlight local environmental issues and solutions. Learn more at healthebay.org and follow @healthebay on social media.
About Beach Report Card Beach Report Card with NowCast, in partnership with World Surf League, is Heal the Bay’s flagship scientific water quality monitoring program that started in the 1990s. For thirty years, the Beach Report Card has influenced the improvement of water quality by increasing monitoring efforts and helping to enact strong environmental and public health policies. Learn more at beachreportcard.org and download the free app on iPhone and Android devices.
The Beach Report Card is made possible in part through generous support from SIMA Environmental Fund, Swain Barber Foundation, SONY Pictures Entertainment, and World Surf League.
About River Report Card Currently, there is no statewide water quality monitoring mandate for rivers and streams in California, like we have for the ocean as a result of the Beach Report Card. Heal the Bay started the River Report Card in 2017 to push for new public health protections for freshwater areas in addition to serving the immediate need for increased public awareness about the risks at popular freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County. Learn more at healthebay.org/riverreportcard.
The River Report Card is made possible in part by generous support from Alice C. Tyler Perpetual Trust and Garfield Foundation.