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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Around the Bay

california earth month and earth day with heal the bay

L: South Bay. C: Underwater in SoCal by Chris DeLorenzo. R: Rocky Point at Mugu Beach.

Our excitement for Earth Day can’t be contained to just 24 hours – that’s why we’re celebrating our environment all month long. Of course it goes without saying, every month is Earth Month at Heal the Bay, but April will be something else altogether.

This month, Heal the Bay is involved in over 40 different events and programs all over Los Angeles County. From an epic sandcastle competition to our monthly beach cleanup, to exciting new activities at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium — below are the best science, art, and educational events to celebrate a clean and thriving ocean this April.

So choose your path, have fun, learn something new, and make a wave with us all month long to protect what we love.

Featured Earth Month Events

Protect What You Love Sandcastle Competition

Unleash your inner architect! Builders are wanted for a friendly competition with Heal the Bay and the Boys & Girls Club to design some amazing sandcastles in celebration of Earth Month. Do you have what it takes to work on the sandy shores while curious beach cleanup volunteers stand by?
When: April 15, 8:30-11:30am
Where: Santa Monica Beach near Lifeguard Tower 1550
Sign Up


Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanup

Do you like dirty beaches? NO!? Then, one of these buckets has your name on it. In April, we’re gathering in full force to sweep Santa Monica Beach clean and leave behind Nothin’ But Sand. This is a great opportunity for families and friends to volunteer for good cause. Feel free to saunter on over to the nearby Sandcastle Competition and gaze upon the sandy constructions. Participants also earn free admission to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium that afternoon, and with it the chance to interact with the local animals that call our Bay home.
When: April 15, 10am-12pm
Where: Santa Monica Beach near Lifeguard Tower 1550
RSVP


March for Science on Earth Day with Heal the Bay

H2O is life! The rest is just science. As a science-based organization, we know that scientific literacy drives informed decision-making. That’s why on Earth Day we are marching for science in Los Angeles — joining hundreds of other locations worldwide and thousands of scientists and advocates — because the threats to our local waters and waterways are real and must be addressed scientifically.
When: Earth Day, April 22, 9am-12:30pm
Where: Pershing Square, 532 South Olive Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
See More


Earth Day at Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

Thanks to our friends at The Albright, admission to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium will be free on Earth Day! It will be chock-full of eco-friendly activities down at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Make a biodegradable planter, enjoy a special Earth Day story time followed by live animal presentation, join in our interactive “Who Pollutes?” presentation, and check out the local fauna.
When: Earth Day, April 22, 12:30pm-5pm
Where: Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
See More


Trivia Night at the Aquarium

Get your thinking caps on and sharpen your pencils! Heal the Bay Young Professionals are back with the first trivia night of the year. Gather your friends for a night of fun and games among the fish. Tickets include light snacks, three drinks, and entertainment. All proceeds benefit Heal the Bay. 
When: April 6, 7-9pm
Where: Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
RSVP


“Breath of Disruption” Exhibit by Chris DeLorenzo at Gallery 169

Gallery 169, the “hub + cultural generator” of Santa Monica Canyon, is hosting an exhibit “Breath of Disruption” by LA/NY based photographer Chris DeLorenzo. The collection features beautiful, abstract photos taken under waves along the Southern California coast. Gallery entry is free. Best of all, 10% of proceeds from artwork sales support Heal the Bay.
When: April 8, 5-8pm (Artist meet and greet with Chris DeLorenzo from 5-5:30pm)
Where: 169 W Channel Rd, Santa Monica, CA 90402
See More


Spring Break Camp at the Aquarium

In honor of Earth Month, our campers will have fun becoming Planet Protectors as they explore the ocean through games, crafts, animal interactions, beach investigations, and science experiments.
When: April 10–14, 9am–2pm daily
Where: Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
Sign Up


Aquarium Volunteer Open House

Learn about all our amazing volunteer and internship opportunities at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, requirements to join our volunteer and intern teams, and Aquarium expectations, as well as all the great benefits the Aquarium has to offer our volunteers and interns.
When: April 13, 6-6:45pm
Where: Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
RSVP


Heal the Bay’s Volunteer Orientation

Get an introduction to Heal the Bay, our current issues, and how you can get involved in one of our many exciting volunteer programs. Founded on the principle that one person can make a difference, we’ve empowered thousands of volunteers to improve their environment and communities. Now you can make a difference too.
When: April 17, 7pm-9pm
Where: Heal the Bay main office, 1444 9th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
RSVP


Earth Focus: “Vanishing Coral” Documentary

Tune in for the latest episode of EARTH FOCUS, a television program that reflects on Earth’s changing resources and climates and how it affects people, animals, and habitats all over the world. This installment explores the story of scientists and naturalists who are working with local communities to protect coral reefs that are facing imminent danger from warmer seas, pollution, and unsustainable fishing practices. 
When: April 18, 8:30pm
Where: KCET in Southern California, Link TV Nationwide. Also streaming at KCET.org/Coral and LinkTV.org/Coral.


Climate Day LA

The second annual Climate Day LA will be held at the historic theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown L.A. This all-day event will bring together local leaders and advocates to strategize, implement, and celebrate solutions to climate change. And don’t miss out on the evening concert in the theatre!
When: Friday, April 21 (Conference: 1:00-5:30 pm | Gala: 6:00-8:00 pm | Concert: 7:30-12:00 am)
Where: The Theatre at Ace Hotel, 933 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015
See More


Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th Birthday

We’re thrilled to celebrate Ella Fitzgerald’s “would-be” 100th birthday at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. There will be Ella-themed decor and music, and the chance to feed some sea stars in honor of one of our favorite stars. The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation has been an amazing partner to Heal the Bay for the past 7 years, providing assistance in educating over 3,000 students about protecting the ocean.
When: April 25, 2-5pm
Where: Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
See More


If you can’t make it to any of our events in April, you can still make your voice heard by signing our petition urging Congress to maintain EPA & NOAA funding. Keep the Earth Month party going in May, and reserve your seat for our annual awards gala at the Santa Monica Pier. Don’t miss out! This exclusive seaside experience happens just once-a-year and goes a long way towards our mission to make Greater L.A.’s coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy, and clean.



Leslie Griffin, Heal the Bay’s chief water quality scientist and Beach Report Card manager, likes to kiss and tell. Here’s her list of the cuddliest spots for couples along the California shoreline.

Wanna enjoy a long walk on the beach?

I know it sounds like a line, but this lovers’ activity is a cliché for a reason. A seaside stroll proves both calming and romantic, with the vast ocean rippling along the shore while your toes sink into the cool sand. Or maybe your dream beach date consists of gazing at a gorgeous sunset while you enjoy a seaside picnic.

Either way, we are all about getting a little sandy, whether with a loved one, a friend, or for a little solo escape into the outdoors for some dedicated me time.

Here are 10 spots we love for love (and their great water quality too!):

Torrey Pines, San Diego

Source: Dan_H, flickr


What we love about it: Torrey Pines State Beach has picturesque views of the San Diego coastline and the adjacent Torrey Pines State Reserve is filled with little trails leading down to the shore. We recommend that you only take marked trails and watch your footing, but the views are worth the adventure.

What to do here: We love the Torrey Pines Trail to Black’s Beach in the morning for a beautiful way to start your day. Fair warning: some nudists like to visit this beach as well.

Water Quality: The only sampling site at Torrey Pines is at the Los Penasquitos Lagoon outlet. That site received good grades in our most recent annual Beach Report Card.


La Jolla, San Diego

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: This spot is great for lovers and families alike, with plenty of adventure to be had by all ages.

What to do here: This is the perfect spot for a SUP (stand up paddleboard) adventure, snorkeling, kayaking, or even just a picturesque walk along the beach. For stunning ocean views over dinner, check out the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

Water Quality: La Jolla shores received great grades in our annual report last year.


Victoria Beach, Orange County

Source: Daniel Peckham, flickr


What we love about it: Straight out of a fairy tale, this shoreline spot is guarded by La Tour, a 60-foot castle-inspired tower.  Built in 1926, the structure provided beach access for a home on the cliff above.

What to do here: Looking to be someone’s knight in shining armor? Look no further. To get here, walk to the north end of Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach, around the bluff and past another sandy section of beach. (This is a privately owned structure, so while you can walk up to it, please do not try to go inside or climb on the structure.)

Water Quality: Victoria Beach received A+’s across the board in our last annual report.


Crystal Cove State Park, Orange County

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: With such a long swath of open sandy shores, this is an ideal spot for a romantic seaside stroll, or perhaps for a love-inspired photoshoot.

What to do here: If you’re looking for post-beach walk eats with an ocean view, the Beachcomber Café is a fun option.

Water Quality: Crystal Cove has great water quality in the summer or whenever the weather has been dry. Given the buckets of rain we have (thankfully) gotten this year, make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see.


Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles

Source: Mark Esguerra, The Marke’s World


What we love about it: We love the PV areas so much, we had to lump the whole peninsula together as one of our top locations. Palos Verdes wraps around from the base of the South Bay down to San Pedro, and features beautiful neighborhoods, coastal trails, clean beaches, and tidepool adventures.

What to do here: If you’re looking for some marine biology-inspired adventure, time your visit for low tide to go tidepooling at Abalone Cove. For a short hike and a hidden rocky beach, check out Palos Verdes Bluff Cove.

Water Quality: The Palos Verdes area is home to multiple Honor Roll beaches, including Abalone Cove Shoreline Park.


El Matador State Beach, Malibu

Source: Elliot McGucken, 500px


What we love about it: This was easily the top rated romantic spot by Heal the Bay staff. Dramatic cliffs and coves (and even secret sea caves) make this beach feel like the backdrop of a steamy Hollywood romance scene. Whether it’s energizing a new flame or a longtime squeeze, you can expect El Matador to light your fire.

What to do here: Explore the dramatic landscape, take Instagram-worthy photos, find little hideaway spots for you and your date to share secret kisses, and wrap up your evening with a gorgeous sunset view.

Water Quality: El Matador is an Honor Roll beach with awesome water quality.


Arroyo Burro, Santa Barbara

Source: Damian Gadal, flickr


What we love about it: Santa Barbara is the perfect little getaway for a weekend of romance. If you’re looking for some time together to rest, rejuvenate, and rekindle the fire, Santa Barbara is the perfect place.

What to do here: We love Arroyo Burro for a sunset walk, and with plenty of parking and restroom access it’s a stress-free beach walk experience.

Water Quality: Arroyo Burro has great water quality in the summer or whenever it has been dry enough that the creek hasn’t breached. Make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see if you’re feeling like taking a dip. But if the creek is flowing, be sure to stick to the sand over the waves.


Big Sur Coastline, Monterey

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: Another area that is just so beautiful, we can’t limit it to just one beach. The shoreline in Big Sur is renowned for its rustic coastal beauty. A drive along the twisty coastline is certain to inspire awe. Pull off whenever your heart desires, and be sure to take photos so you can revisit the view whenever you like.

What to do here: McWay Falls is a stunning spot where you can watch a perfect little waterfall pouring directly to the beach. The Bixby Canyon Bridge is another cult favorite, and there’s even a Death Cab for Cutie song to match. There are plenty of hiking trails, camping sites, and little cafes to warm up in.

Water Quality: Monterey water quality testing only extends as far south as Carmel, so while there aren’t any sampling sites to rely on, the area is un-urbanized and thus less likely to have bacterial problems.


Baker Beach, San Francisco

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: If you’re in the Bay Area and looking for an ideal view of the Golden Gate Bridge, this is our favorite sandy spot.

What to do here: The dramatic backdrop makes this spot ideal for a photo shoot, or even just a quick selfie-sesh. We’d recommend cuddling up for a romantic picnic and enjoying the sunset together.

Water Quality: Just be sure to avoid swimming near the creek outlet if you’re looking to take a penguin dip.


Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: The farther north you go in California, often the more dramatic and rural the coastal landscape. This National Seashore is a prime example of that raw beauty, and it is sure to take your breath away.

What to do here: There a quite a few campgrounds and hiking trails within the area if you’re looking to get back in touch with nature.

Water Quality: Marin County no longer samples within this area. The closest active sampling station is Bolinas Beach (another beautiful spot), just south of Point Reyes.


Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is the only comprehensive analysis of coastline water quality in California. We monitor more than 500 beaches weekly from Oregon to the Mexico border, assigning an A to F grade based on the health risks of swimming or surfing at that location.



Every year around Valentine’s Day, our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium celebrates its love for whales – just in time to mark the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale.

Pacific gray whales undergo a gargantuan 10,000-mile roundtrip journey between the Arctic and Mexico each year. These gentle giants breed and give birth in the warm Baja waters in late fall/early winter before heading back north with their calves around February. The migration takes the whales through the Santa Monica Bay – sometimes close enough to be spotted from the West end of the Pier.

A photo posted by Dale Frink (@dalefrink) on

Make sure to stop by for Whale of a Weekend at the Aquarium (Feb. 11 and 12, from 12:30 – 5 pm). From baleen to blubber, you’ll leave with a ton of knowledge. Be sure to take a peek through our binoculars from the observation deck; you might just spy a whale!

Our Top Ten Facts About Whales

  1. Whales only breathe through their blowholes – they can’t breathe through their mouths.
  2. There are two categories of cetaceans (whales): those with teeth and those without.
  3. Toothless whales, called baleen whales, include the Pacific gray whale, blue, humpback, fin, and right whales.
  4. Toothed whales include orcas, belugas, dolphins, narwhals, porpoises and sperm whales.
  5. Nearly 90% of all cetaceans are toothed whales.
  6. Baleen whales are the largest mammals on earth but they eat some of the smallest creatures in the ocean: tiny zooplankton.
  7. Baleen whales have two spout openings (like having two nostril openings).
  8. Toothed whales only have one spout opening.
  9. Narwhals actually only have two teeth. One of those teeth is the large spiral shaped ivory tusk that develops through their upper lip.
  10. When baleen whales blow air out of their spout, it creates a spray that sometimes comes out heart-shaped.

Don’t miss out on Whale of a Weekend for an ocean’s worth of fun, and don’t forget to celebrate World Whale Day on February 18!



The L.A. Kings and Heal the Bay are lacing up their flip-flops for a multi-site beach cleanup on Jan. 25. Here, communications director Matthew King muses about sports stars on the sand.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve become a little jaded after participating in dozens of beach cleanups.

As a Heal the Bay staffer, I know exactly what we are going to find (a disheartening mix of chip bags, plastic bottles, and bits of Styrofoam). And I know exactly what participants’ reactions will be (“OMFG, look at all these disgusting cigarette butts!”).

I have another admission to make – like most Angelenos, I’m a bit star struck. You’d think after years of working as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter early in my career, I’d be more blasé about celebrity. But I still get a charge out of seeing stars out in the wild – especially at one of our events. I still proudly carry my green reusable bag signed by #4 Luke Walton, former forward and current coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, at our downtown rally in support of L.A.’s plastic bag ban.

Cleanups and celebs are an interesting mix. The stars usually come on their own time and out of their own volition, without makeup artists or publicists in tow. So out of respect, I’m not going to name names. But we’ve had several Oscar- and Emmy-winning performers roll up their sleeves with us and humbly mingle with the general public. I’m proud to say I haven’t seen an ounce of ego or attitude.

As a hopeless sports junkie, I’ve had the most fun working with L.A.’s professional sports teams. I’ve picked up trash with former Lakers center Andrew Bynum, probably the only time I’ve participated in a cleanup with someone taller than I am. (I’m 6’6” – Kobe Bryant size, as I like to say.)

Ex-Laker center Andrew Bynum helps pick up trash off of the beach.

Former All-Star Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and I scoured for bottle caps beside the Santa Monica Pier. (I think he was dating Rihanna at the time, and I can tell you he is one handsome dude.)

Former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp weighs his trash totals.

But my favorite cleanup of all time was with the L.A. Kings in 2008, the year I started working at Heal the Bay.

I even allowed my young teenage son to skip school that day and help out, just to show him that working at a nonprofit has a little bit of cool to it. Hockey is my favorite sport, but that isn’t what made the day so memorable.

When a sports team hosts an event with us, two or three athletes will typically attend. But at the Kings cleanup in Redondo Beach, every player on the roster, except one, participated. This was 10 a.m. in the morning following a tough game the night before at Staples Center! I don’t know if the Kings have a culture of strict discipline or genuine community connection, but seeing two dozen players happily canvassing the sand on a foggy morning really impressed me.

Since then the Kings have gone on to win two Stanley Cup® championships. (I was in the house when defensemen Alex Martinez tucked in a reflex rebound at Staples Center to secure their second Cup against the New York Rangers!)

They’ve also grown into a great partner with Heal the Bay and have been honored at our annual Bring Back the Beach gala for their community outreach programs. Check out the video below to learn more.

Defensemen Matt Greene lent his voice to one of our most important battles – last year’s successful coalition effort to reject a ballot measure that would have allowed oil drilling beneath the Hermosa Beach seafloor. And all the other Kings live along the South Bay shoreline, so it’s no surprise they care about our local beaches.

In advance of this year’s NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center, we are hosting a volunteer cleanup at three locations on Wednesday afternoon, January 25. You can register and get more details here. (You might have to play hooky from work, but we can have one of our two staff Ph.D.s write you a doctor’s note!)



Is all this rain a good or a bad thing for greater Los Angeles? It all depends on your point of view, explains Communications Director Matthew King.

As a surfer, I hate the rain. As a Californian, I love it.

The recent series of downpours has kept me out of the ocean for weeks. I’ve gotten violently ill from surfing in water polluted with runoff and have learned my lesson. Maybe the deluge up north has been a boon for our parched state. But we are not out of the desert yet…

Below, we’ve answered our top 10 most frequently asked questions about what the #LArain really means:

1. Does all this rain mean the drought is over?

The recent rain might temporarily relieve drought effects, but it is not a cure-all. Yes, reservoirs up north may be filling again, but SoCal reservoirs are still dry. It will take years for our depleted groundwater aquifers to catch up. A good analogy is relating the drought to your credit card: a series of big storms is like paying off the minimum balance. You have temporary relief, but you still have a lot of water debt to pay off from the water you took out before. We require much more water to reach healthy and secure levels.

Locally, our regional infrastructure is not set up to store rainwater or capture runoff, and reuse it. The system is currently designed to move rain water to the ocean as fast as possible. Only 12% of Southern California drinking water comes from locally captured rainwater seeping into our groundwater.

 

2. What is “stormwater capture” and why is Heal the Bay so excited about it?

The L.A. region now imports more than 80% of our water from Northern California and the Colorado River watershed, using enormous amounts of energy and capital to do so. In an era of permanent drought, we simply must do a better job of using the water we already have by investing in innovative infrastructure projects that capture and reuse stormwater. We need to capture and infiltrate water on-site, replenishing aquifers instead of funneling runoff uselessly to our seas via the stormdrain system.

Current mood ☂️🌧

A photo posted by Sol Angeles (@solangeles) on

 

3. What needs to be done to improve stormwater capture in Los Angeles?

Runoff — if held, filtered and cleansed naturally in groundwater basins — can provide a safe source of water for human use. That means building so-called multi-benefit projects like green streets, water-smart parks and low-impact commercial development. Philadelphia and Portland have made enormous strides in treating stormwater as a resource rather than a nuisance, and so can we. The city of Los Angeles, for example, has created an ambitious master plan for stormwater capture. But all this innovative replumbing requires capital. Heal the Bay has joined a broad array of environmental and business groups asking regional lawmakers to craft a public-funding measure, perhaps in the form of a reasonable parcel tax. It’s a needed investment, one that will replace outmoded ways of thinking and pay dividends for years to come.

A video posted by Manolow (@manolow) on

 

4. The rain increases supply, but what about reducing demand?

Most conversations about water in our state revolve around supply. We often fail to talk about demand, and how we can reduce the strain put on our unreliable delivery system by simply being smarter about the water we already have. Los Angeles residents have done a remarkable job of reducing their average daily per-gallon usage over the past decade, but we can still do better. The average DWP residential customer used about 68 gallons per day in November, compared to about 42 GPD in Santa Cruz. A good place to start is rethinking our love affair with gardens and lawns in arid Southern California. Nearly 50% of water used residentially in greater L.A. goes to watering lawns and other landscaping.

 

5. I thought rain was a good thing. Why is Heal the Bay worried about it?

Yes, we desperately need rain. But rain creates urban runoff — the No. 1 source of pollution at our beaches and ocean.

 

6. How does rain create pollution?

Rimmed by foothills and mountains, Los Angeles County is like a giant concrete bowl tilted toward the sea. When it rains, water rushes along paved streets, picking up trash, fertilizer, metals, pet waste and automotive fluids before heading to the ocean via the region’s extensive stormdrain system.

 

7. How do stormdrains trash the beach?

With memories of historical deluges on their mind, engineers designed L.A. County’s 2,800-mile stormdrain system in the ‘30s and ‘40s to prioritize flood prevention.  Moving stormwater out to sea quickly was their number one goal. But it also has the unintended function of moving trash and bacteria-laden runoff directly into the Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays, completely unchecked and untreated. An average one-inch storm will create about 10 billion gallons of runoff in L.A. County stormdrains. That’s 120 Rose Bowls’ worth of dirty water!

A photo posted by Josh Choo (@joshchoo4444) on

 

8. What does all this runoff have to do with the ocean and marine animals that call it home?

Hundreds of thousands of animals each year die from ingesting trash or getting entangled in human-made debris. Seawater laden with chemicals and metals makes it harder for local marine life to thrive and reproduce.

 

9. What about the human health impacts?

Beachgoers who come in contact with polluted water after storms face a much higher risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes. A UCLA epidemiology study found that people are twice as likely to get sick from swimming in front of a flowing stormdrain than from swimming in open water.

 

10. How can ocean lovers stay safe during the storms?

  • Wait at least 72 hours before entering the water after a storm
  • Stay away from storm drains, piers and enclosed beaches with poor circulation
  • Go to Heal the Bay’s BeachReportCard.org to get the latest water quality grades and updates
  • If you find a gutter that’s blocked, call the City’s Storm Drain Hotline at (800) 974-9794 so that L.A. Sanitation can remove the debris

 


You can support Heal the Bay’s efforts to make L.A. smarter about water. Here’s how:

  • Come to a volunteer cleanup to learn more about stormwater pollution and what can be done to prevent it. Invite family and friends to help spread the word
  • Share information on your social networks and support our green infrastructure campaigns
  • Become a member. Your donation will underwrite volunteer cleanups, citizen data-collection efforts and advocacy efforts by our science and policy team to develop more sustainable water policies throughout Southern California.


Dec. 16, 2016 — Once again, rain is falling throughout the Los Angeles Basin.

Angelenos are expected to experience heavy rainfall during winter months. This weekend’s storm is predicted to generate an inch or two of precipitation throughout the basin, with some areas receiving as much as four inches.

How much water is that?

The County of Los Angeles estimates that during a typical storm event upwards of 10 billion gallons of storm water flushes into the ocean. That’s enough to fill nearly 120 Rose Bowls. Thinking about it another way, 10 billion gallons would provide enough water for a city the size of Santa Monica for more than three months.

Dang, that is a lot of water! Wait… Aren’t we in a drought?

Why are we letting this precious water resource flow into the ocean without trying to capture it? That is odd given we Angelenos import nearly 80% of our potable (safe to drink) water.

What a waste.

Our historic single-use approach to water has long shaped our hydrologic infrastructure, yet the non-use of large quantities of storm water is wasteful. In case you didn’t know, the gutters and catch basins at the end of almost every street in Los Angeles drain to a local river, stream, or creek, and ultimately out to the ocean.

More galling than the opportunity cost lost from not capturing rainwater and instead allowing it to flow out to sea, is the actual cost incurred from these events.

The usual, depressing detritus littered Santa Monica beaches after the recent storm.

The usual, depressing detritus littered Santa Monica beaches after the recent storm.

Almost every storm event brings physical debris, mostly plastics, to our rivers, creeks, and oceans. In addition, poor water quality after a rainstorm can make rivers and oceans unhealthy for aquatic organisms and recreational users.

In Los Angeles County alone, there are more than 70 major outfalls that spew trash, animal waste, pesticides, automotive fluids, and human-gastrointestinal viruses into our county’s bodies of water. This urban micro-brew of pollution can accumulate in just a couple days on sidewalks and roadways – 12 million people in a highly urbanized landscape – before being washed into the storm drains after a rain event.

The storm drain system is responsible for discharging this pollution into our rivers, creeks, and ocean. This causes potential human health risks, harms marine life, and dampens the tourist economy by littering shorelines.

The more we know, the better the flow.

Rainwater runoff can be captured for future use, whether we are in a drought or not.

Water literacy is a way of understanding the connections between the drought and imported drinking water, local storm water runoff and sewage, land-use and flooding, water quality, and water use.

Rain provides an ideal opportunity to explore water scarcity.

As individuals, we must reflect on our daily water consumption, our own ability to conserve and capture water, and evaluate with a critical eye the systems that handle water. Let the rain hit you, let it revitalize your thoughts on water, and then let’s begin to learn how to use it more efficiently.

Tips for Angelenos after rain storms:

  • Stay out of the water. The County of Los Angeles Environmental Health Department and Heal the Bay urge residents and visitors to avoid water contact at Los Angeles County beaches for at least 72 hours following rain event. In some locations and for long-duration rainstorms, staying out of the ocean for more than five days may be more appropriate.
  • Know the flow. Test your water knowledge, and share insights about rainwater runoff and where Los Angeles gets its water in your community.
  • Be a responder. Heal the Bay’s volunteer Storm Response Team goes on scene at local beaches after big storms to remove the nasty debris flushed from across Los Angeles before this waste ends up in the ocean. Get alerts for more info.


Dec. 15, 2016 — Calling all inventors, tinkerers, makers, “mad” scientists, DIY’ers, or just anyone with a good sense of humor. It’s time to get ready for Los Angeles’ 4th annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at the Santa Monica Pier!

Rube Goldberg Machine is a crazy contraption that accomplishes a simple task in the most complicated – and funniest – way possible! Based on the “invention” cartoons of the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning American cartoonist, Rube Goldberg, actual machines are at the heart of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. They use everyday items (mostly junk), to tell a story and, most important of all – they make you LAUGH.

The competition is open to middle school, high school, and college level teams. This year, teams will be faced with the challenge of “applying a Band-Aid” at the end of their multistep chain reaction. This is a great way to showcase your talent to elite industry judges. Last year’s judges were from SpaceX, Google, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

The competition is part of the larger S.T.E.A.M. Machines Festival on the Santa Monica Pier scheduled for Sunday March 5th. It will be a full day of gadgets, innovation, creativity, and fun. For additional information, including registration details and financial aid opportunities, please contact Tara Crow or call 310-564-6126.



Reusable bags at Walmart, courtesy of Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune

Dec. 8, 2016 — Way back in the old days (before Nov. 8, that is) your trip to a grocery store in California frequently ended with two options: paper or plastic. Since then, voters across the state passed Proposition 67, and California became the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags. Now you are faced with two new options at the grocery store: paper or reusable.

But wait … why does it look like grocery stores are still offering plastic bags? And why are you getting charged for taking bags? What does this new era of grocery shopping mean?

Have no fear! We’ve compiled a Prop 67 sheet to address all of your questions about the bill and what will happen at the checkout stand going forward.

Plastic bags at checkout, image courtesy of Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago TribuneWhy are some grocery stores still offering plastic bags at the checkout?

While it does look like plastic bags are still an option at some stores (we’ve seen them at Ralphs, Vons, CVS, and Smart & Final), these bags are different than the ones you’re used to seeing. The new law forbids grocery stores from providing single-use plastic bags to customers, even if they sold it for a fee. Instead, stores can sell thicker-skinned bags that can be reused at least 125 times over its lifetime. (And the reusable bag must be able to carry 22 pounds over a distance of 175 feet and must be at least 2.25 mm thick, if you want to be exact.)

These reusable bags can be made of plastic, so yes, they can still pose a threat to ocean animals. While this bill is not perfect (no bill can be passed without some compromise!), getting rid of all those flimsy one-use bags will still have incredible positive impacts on California’s waste stream and environment. We’ve already seen significant reduction in the amount of plastic bags in cities that had their own bag bans in place before Prop 67 passed. In the one year since its bag ban was enacted, the city of San Jose saw a 76% reduction in creek and river litter, a 59% drop in park and roadside plastic bag litter, and a 69% reduction in plastic bag litter in storm drains.

This shows how just a simple change in consumer behavior can have a significant impact on the environment. Millions of Californians in the more than 150 cities and counties that already had their own bag bans have proved that it’s easy and effective.

Paper grocery bagWhat does the law say about paper bags?

The law states that paper grocery bags must contain a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled materials. Smaller paper bags, like the ones you would typically find in the produce or deli sections, must contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled materials. Many stores are offering paper bags that are made out of 100% post-consumer recycled materials, which is a good thing.

However, there are still environmental consequences from the production and distribution of paper bags. Though Proposition 67 banned single-use plastic bags, the bag ban has also caused a dramatic decrease of paper bags used across the state. Because shoppers are bringing reusable bags with them to the grocery store, the use of paper bags in Los Angeles dropped by about 40% since its bag ban went into effect.

So bring your own durable reusable bag with you. When the checkout clerk asks you if you want paper or reusable plastic, you already have your answer – neither!

coins-can-be-exchanged-for-goods-and-servicesHow much can I be charged for a paper or reusable bag?

According to the law, a grocery store must charge at least 10 cents for a paper or reusable grocery bag. This was put in the bill to ensure that the cost of providing a reusable grocery bag is not subsidized by a customer who does not need that bag. However, stores can charge more than 10 cents for a bag if they want to, just as they can set the price point for any other good sold.

Participants in WIC or CalFresh (SNAP) using a voucher or EBT card are exempt from the bag fee and reusable or paper bags must be offered to these customers free of charge.

I heard people opposing Prop 67 say that the grocery stores are being greedy and are making a profit by charging us for bags. Is that true?

Simply put, this was a lie spread by the plastic bag manufactures to spook people into voting against the proposition. The law clearly states that the money collected from bag sales may be used only for the following purposes:

  • Costs associated with complying with the law.
  • Actual costs of providing recycled paper bags or reusable grocery bags.
  • Costs associated with a store’s educational materials or educational campaign encouraging the use of reusable grocery bags.

Are plastic produce bags still allowed? Are we being charged for them?

Yes – plastic produce bags, meat bags, and bread bags are exempt from this law. While the law does not require that a store charges for the sale of these bags, the store can if it wants to, just as it can set the price for any good it sells. It seems that most stores are continuing with business as usual, which means that the cost of the bags are lumped in with other operational costs that are absorbed in the price of the goods you buy.

What types of stores are included in the ban? What types of stores are exempt?

Plastic bags are banned from the following types of stores:

  • Grocery stores (e.g. Albertson’s, Ralphs, Target, Walmart, Vons, 99 Cent Only, etc.)
  • Drug stores and pharmacies (e.g. Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, etc.)
  • Convenience food stores and food-marts (e.g. 7-Eleven, AM PM Mini Markets, etc.)
  • Liquor stores (e.g. BevMo, local liquor stores, mini-marts, etc.)

The following types of stores are exempt from the plastic bag ban:

  • Restaurants
  • Farmers markets
  • Hardware stores (e.g. Home Depot, Lowes, etc.)
  • Retail stores (e.g. Macy’s, JC Penny, Ross, TJ Maxx, etc.)

Blue recycling binsWhat should I do with all of the plastic bags I’ve saved under my kitchen sink?

With the New Year approaching, now is a great time to set your resolution to free yourself of single-use plastic! The best thing to do is recycle the single-use plastic bags you have. Did you know that in the City of Los Angeles, you can put them straight into your blue curbside recycling bin? We recommend you bundle them all together in one bag to reduce the chances of them flying away in transport and becoming pollution. If you don’t live in L.A., check with your city about what is and is not accepted in your curbside recycling program. You can also check out Earth911 to search for recycling facilities near you. Most grocery stores collect plastic bags for recycling as well.

Want to nerd out and read all of the policy language written into the bill?

We did! You can read the bag ban’s official text on the California Legislature’s website.



Dec. 7, 2016 — The new appointee for EPA administrator raises some red flags for Heal the Bay’s work, says science and policy director Dr. Rita Kampalath.


UPDATE 2/1/17: Today members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works boycotted the vote to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A vote will be rescheduled in the coming days. Add your voice to this petition now urging the U.S. Senate Committee to reject Pruitt’s nomination. Tell our elected officials to maintain strong EPA funding for programs that affect our Bays nationwide.


Speaking personally, there’s been little to be excited about as news of the presidential transition and new administration appointees has trickled out the past few weeks. But I’ll admit that the optimist in me still held on to a little spark of hope about the ultimate choice for EPA Administrator.

As the person tasked with enforcing our Clean Water and Clean Air acts, the chief sets the tone and priorities for the administration, whose work dovetails with many of our issues on a daily basis. The EPA responds both to immediate crises like the Flint drinking-water crisis, as well as long-term challenges like climate change.

Maybe I wouldn’t be thrilled by the choice, but the appointee would be someone who at the very least believed in the mission of the agency, if not the specific strategies we would prefer. Unfortunately, that spark was extinguished with today’s news of the pick of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head up the nation’s top environmental agency.

While we didn’t get Scylla it sure seems that we’re stuck with Charybdis. He fought to limit the scope of the Clean Water Rule (Waters of the United States Rule), which sought to bring more waterbodies under the protection of the Clean Water Act. The CWA is the federal regulation that has underpinned Heal the Bay’s major policy gains, such as fighting for strict pollution limits on the L.A. River. Pruitt who has close ties to oil and gas companies, also has been one of the leaders in the fight against environmental regulations that would impact energy and producers. Pruitt is part of a coalition of state attorneys general suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power companies.

With this pick, it’s clear that Heal the Bay’s science and policy staff will have to be more vigilant than ever to ensure that on a local level our natural resources are protected.  Stay tuned.


UPDATE 2/1/17: Today members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works boycotted the vote to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A vote will be rescheduled in the coming days. Add your voice to this petition now urging the U.S. Senate Committee to reject Pruitt’s nomination. Tell our elected officials to maintain strong EPA funding for programs that affect our Bays nationwide.



Nov. 30, 2016 — After nearly 30 years guiding the influential Friends of the Los Angeles River, Lewis MacAdams has decided to hand over the reins. Here, longtime ally James Alamillo, Heal the Bay’s urban programs manager, reflects on our shared history.

Heal the Bay and the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) both got their start in 1986, upstart nonprofits focused on grassroots change. The organizations have since matured and have shaped the Los Angeles environmental scene for the past 30 years. As though they were cut from the same fabric, Heal the Bay founding president Dorothy Green and FOLAR co-founder Lewis MacAdams both made it their life’s work to protect two iconic landscapes of Los Angeles — the Santa Monica Bay and the Los Angeles River. Mobilizing everyday people, they developed a successful formula to rehabilitate, protect, preserve, and share special places with current and future generations.

The two Los Angeles environmental giants, and their respective organizations, began crossing paths in the early 1990s when the Los Angeles County Flood Control Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed raising the walls on the Los Angeles River – an effort known as the Los Angeles County Drainage Area Project, or LACDA.

Both Dorothy and Lewis were so adamant about instituting comprehensive watershed management planning principles to the Los Angeles River and other watersheds, that they formed the Coalition to Restore our Watershed, also known as Un-Pave LA. Over the next six years, they fought the LACDA project to ensure that watershed principals were incorporated into the project’s Environmental Impact Report. Although the LACDA project was eventually built, the process gave birth to yet another organization – the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, a group intent on bringing watershed management principals to public agencies.

Since then, FOLAR and Heal the Bay have collectively worked together to improve the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. Through it all, Lewis has always been part of the process, whether it was supporting volunteer clean-up programs, talking to media, testifying before the Regional Water Quality Control Board on a 401-water quality certifications or a total maximum daily load for trash, reviewing data collection on fishing or swimming, promoting the river’s restoration, or supporting the ARBOR Study.

While the partnership between Heal the Bay and FOLAR will continue, Lewis’ passion for the river will be greatly missed. Heal the Bay is honored to have traveled the Los Angeles River journey with Lewis. We wish him well as moves on to his next endeavor.