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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Locations

Surfrider Beach Third Point, Malibu. Photo by The California Coastal Commission 

On January 10-12 and February 8-9, 2020, head to the beach during the King Tides to catch a glimpse of what our future coast will look like with sea level rise.

King Tides occur when the sun and moon align to exert the greatest gravitational pull on Earth, resulting in the most extreme high and low tides of the year. In California, experts say that King Tides today are what we can expect our daily high tide to look like in the next few decades under climate change and sea level rise predictions.

For many people, it’s hard to see everyday impacts of climate change locally and difficult to understand real-life impacts that are here or coming. King Tides give us the opportunity to visualize firsthand what a higher sea level will be like. This is also an opportunity to get involved as a community scientist, document the King Tides through photos, and use #KingTides. These photos can be used by scientists, government agencies, and decision makers to understand, plan for, and educate about climate change impacts.

There are actions that we can all take today to minimize and prepare for coming climate change impacts. For instance, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint by driving less, adopting a plant-based diet, and demanding action from elected officials. Individuals and agencies can support and advocate for restoration of coastal wetlands, such as the Ballona Wetlands, which sequester carbon and buffer communities from sea level rise and storm surges. And governments can update their Local Coastal Programs (a planning document to guide development) to plan for sea level rise and climate change.

You can even participate in two local guided beach walks presented by USC Sea Grant, the City of Manhattan Beach, and the City of Malibu on January 10 from 8-10am in Manhattan Beach and January 11 from 8-10am in Malibu, or check out other local King Tides events.

Want to learn more about climate change? Request a speaker from Heal the Bay to give a climate change presentation to your school, club, or group.

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Mother's Beach, Marina del Rey 2019. Photo by The California Coastal Commission

Helpful resources for King Tides:

Learn about the King Tides Project in California: https://www.coastal.ca.gov/kingtides/

Find out what time the King Tides will be near you:
https://www.coastal.ca.gov/kingtides/participate.html#tidemap

See how to participate by uploading your photos via a web browser or app:
https://www.coastal.ca.gov/kingtides/participate.html

Check out last year’s photos on this interactive map:
https://coastalcomm.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=5e77d399c4204a59afe895ff3b91b5e0



heal the bay

Oh, what a year! We reflect on some of our favorite milestones from this past year. A huge thank you goes out to our bold and dedicated Heal the Bay community. We would not have achieved these victories without your ongoing support.

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heal the bay aquarium

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Take a swim down memory lane with us and replay 6 unforgettable moments from 2019.

6. Released our first-ever Stormwater Report—a groundbreaking assessment of stormwater pollution management in Los Angeles County.

In our new Stormwater Report we found that local governments have made shockingly minimal progress in addressing stormwater pollution over the last 30 years. If the current rate of stormwater pollution cleanup continues, LA County communities will wait another 60 years for clean water.

The LA County stormwater permit, the only real mechanism we have for regulating stormwater pollution, is up for renewal in early 2020. Heal the Bay is pushing hard for a strong stormwater permit. We fear it will be weakened and deadlines will be extended, further delaying cleanup of local waters. Municipalities can tap into various funding sources to implement projects, so there is no reason for them to not make meaningful progress moving forward.

Our Stormwater Report was big news for LA and was covered by the L.A. Times, The Guardian, NBC, CBS, KCRW, KPCC, KNX, LAist, The Argonaut News, Daily Breeze, Patch and more.


Heal the Bay Aquarium
Photo by Kelton Mattingly

5. Welcomed our 1 millionth visitor to Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier.

Since our Aquarium opened its doors in 2003, our mission has been to give visitors an underwater experience of the Pacific Ocean without getting their feet wet. We invite all our guests to explore critically important marine habitats and environmental issues.

From swell sharks to red octopus, and seahorses to stingrays, more than 100 local wildlife species thrive at our Aquarium. And now we can proudly say that more than a million visitors have met our local underwater residents!

Around 100,000 visitors come to Heal the Bay Aquarium each year. Local residents and global tourists share their passion for their own local waterways with us and inquire about how to protect what they love. In order to better serve the public, we’ve centered our programs and events around environmental advocacy, community science, pollution prevention and family education.

We also host 15,000 students each year for school field trips and we offer fun, educational, zero-waste birthday parties.


4. Hosted our 30th anniversary of Coastal Cleanup Day as the LA County coordinator.

What an honor it has been for Heal the Bay to steward this annual event since the 1990s, especially with such vibrant community support. Our very first Coastal Cleanup Day hosted 2,000 volunteers – my how far we’ve come! From diving underwater in the Santa Monica Bay to hiking along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and everywhere in between, 13,914 volunteers removed more than 30,165 pounds of trash — from 79 locations in Los Angeles County, in a span of three-hours — on Coastal Cleanup Day 2019.

The weirdest finds from 2019 included: A laptop and electric scooters (underwater in Santa Monica); A 20 foot industrial ladder (underwater in Redondo Beach); Horseshoe (Compton Creek); Cat skull (South LA); Positive pregnancy test (White Point Beach); Shake weight (Venice); Half a rat (Arroyo Seco Confluence); and a California King Mattress-sized Styrofoam block (Arroyo Seco Confluence).


Straws-On-Request

3. Supported Straws-On-Request going into effect in the City of LA.

Los Angeles City Hall passed the Straws-On-Request ordinance this past Earth Day, making single-use plastic straws available by request only at all food and beverage facilities in the City of LA. This, along with other plastic reduction strategies, will hopefully decrease the amount of trash we see in our environment while still giving patrons access to straws when needed.

Often times plastic trash flows from our streets into our storm drains and out to the ocean. Plastic straws and disposable beverage, food, and snack-related items are some of the top types of trash we find at Heal the Bay cleanups. In fact, our cleanup volunteers have picked up more than 138,000 plastic straws from LA beaches over the last two decades.

The Ocean Protection Council acknowledges that trash in the ocean is a persistent and growing problem that is negatively affecting human and ecosystem health, not to mention coastal beauty. We’ll continue to work locally and at the state-level in California to reduce the use of harmful single-use plastics.


2. Rejoiced over these announcements: Hyperion will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater and LA will phase out gas-fired coastal power plants.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant (aka sewage treatment plant), one of the largest in the world, will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater by 2035. The water will be treated extensively and then put into our local groundwater supply for additional treatment by natural soils. Afterwards, the clean water will be pumped up to replenish our local tap water supply. Hyperion’s capacity is 450 million gallons per day and treated water currently flows out to the ocean. But with full recycling at Hyperion we can re-use that water!

Garcetti’s next big announcement was that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will close three coastal gas-burning power plants in El Segundo, Long Beach and the Los Angeles Harbor area by 2029. The plants will be replaced by renewable energy sources and storage.

Heal the Bay was integral to both advancements. We advocated for over a decade for wastewater recycling and for eliminating the marine impacts of the coastal power plants. Our founder Dorothy Green would be so proud of us, and of our City, for taking these giant steps forward.


the inkwell

1. Celebrated the new listing of the Santa Monica Bay Street Beach in the National Register of Historic Places.

The shoreline at Bay Street in Santa Monica was an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular from the 1900s to early 1960s among African Americans, who were barred from enjoying most other southland beaches. Santa Monica’s Bay Street Beach Historic District recent listing in the National Register of Historic Places recognizes this important coastal history.

Since 2013, with the help of African American historian Alison Rose Jefferson, we’ve joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to honor Nick Gabaldón Day at Santa Monica Bay Street Beach.

Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. Nick Gabaldón Day provides an opportunity for broadening outreach, action and education to connect Angelenos with their cultural, historical and natural heritage.


Now go check out our top Instagram posts from 2019. And view our 2019 wrap up for environmental legislation in California.



2019 has been a thrilling legislative season in California. From plastics bills that steadily move us toward a culture of reusability in the state, to improved coastal access for all Californians, our state government has made some major headway in passing environmental bills. Heal the Bay has been closely tracking and advocating for the most important environmental bills of 2019, and we are very excited by some of the progress that has been made this year.

Let’s take a look at the winners (and losers) of 2019.

Of the thousands of bills introduced earlier this year, 1,042 in total made their way to the governor’s desk and 870 of them were signed by Governor Newsom, making them law. This includes some major environmental bills, such as Assembly Bill 619, also dubbed the BYO bill. This bill, introduced by Assemblymember Chiu, clarifies language in the public health code regarding reusable containers, making it easier for consumers to bring their own container to their favorite watering holes and lunch spots. This bill also allows temporary food facilities, like those at fairs and festivals, to use reusable service ware instead of single-use disposables (which were required before this bill was passed). The bill will greatly reduce waste at temporary events and you can now easily fill up that reusable tumbler just about anywhere you go, even food trucks and stands!

Governor Newsom also signed Assembly Bill 1680 (Assemblymember Limón) into law, which will develop a coastal access program for the beaches at Hollister Ranch, an area with 8.5 miles of coastline and no current access to the beaches for the public. This landmark bill will allow any member of the public access to these special Santa Barbara beaches, and is a big win for coastal access for all Californians.

While smoking on the beaches of LA County may have been banned years ago, this was not the case for the rest of California. However, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 8 (Senator Glazer) into law, which makes it illegal to smoke on any state beach or state park across all of California. As the number one littered item, cigarette butts cause great harm to the environment. Made of plastics and filled with hundreds of chemicals, cigarette butts are notorious polluters of beaches, parks and waterways. This bill will help to reduce this pervasive litter item, and protect the health of beachgoers and park visitors.

More environmental bills that were passed this year include:

  • AB 65 – Coastal Protection and Climate Adaption (natural infrastructure)
  • AB 209 – Outdoor Equity Grants Program
  • AB 762 – Shellfish Health Advisory
  • AB 834 – Harmful Algal Bloom Program
  • AB 912 – Marine Invasive Species Management
  • AB 948 – Coyote Valley Conservation Program
  • AB 936 –Oil Spill Response – Non-floating oil
  • AB 1162 – Ban on Hotel Small Plastic Bottles of Personal Care Products
  • AB 1583 – The California Recycling Market Development Act
  • SB 367 – Technical Assistance for State Coastal Conservancy Educational Projects and Programs
  • SB 576 – The Climate Ready Program

While the passage of these bills is a major success, not every environmental bill was signed into law.

Governor Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 792 (Assemblymember Ting), a minimum recycled content bill that would have increased the minimum amount of recycled plastic used to produce plastic beverage bottles. Though the Governor supports this type of standard, the bill was deemed costly and burdensome for the state, and was therefore not signed into law. Heal the Bay advocates and our partners hope to solve the issues with this bill brought on by last minute amendments and bring back a better version next year.

Also vetoed by the governor was Senate Bill 1 (Senator Atkins), a bill that would have enacted the California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019. This act would have ensured protections afforded under federal labor and environmental laws and regulations as of January 2017 (such as the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act) would remain in place in the state of California in the event of future federal regulation changes. It essentially would have acted as a public health and environmental insurance bill to prevent rollbacks at the federal level. Governor Newsom vetoed this bill due to disagreements about its efficacy and necessity. Heal the Bay supports measures such as Senate Bill 1 as they are critical in protecting our state’s natural resources and we were disappointed to see this bill vetoed.

Finally, the pièce de résistance, Senate Bill 54 (Senator Allen) and Assembly Bill 1080 (Assemblymember Gonzalez), also known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. These landmark bills came inches from the end zone, but due to last-minute amendments and new opposition, did not make the deadline to pass this year. Don’t worry, the fight isn’t over. The bills will be eligible for a vote as early as January 2020, and Heal the Bay and other bill’s supporters (all 426,000 of them!) will continue fighting to pass this bill to holistically reduce disposable waste and prevent plastic pollution in the state of California.

Have questions about our advocacy work at Heal the Bay? Interested in hearing about the bills we are fighting for (or against)? Follow us on social media  (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), and reach out to our Science and Policy team!

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Winter rains in Los Angeles County flush an enormous amount of pollution into our storm drains from our streets, sidewalks, and neighborhoods. Where does this pollution end up? Who is responsible for monitoring and regulating it? And what’s next in the efforts to reduce it? Join Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, as she dives into the underworld of LA rain.


So, we know that stormwater is a huge source of pollution for LA’s rivers, lakes, and ocean. But have you ever wondered why? Or wondered how we track and manage this pollution? Well, let’s get into it…

In Los Angeles County, we have a storm drain system and a sewage system which are completely separate. The storm drain system is called the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4). Separating these systems reduces the risk of sewage spills when storms might flood our sewage system, and attempts to get stormwater out of our streets before they flood. However, this separated system is also the reason why stormwater flows directly into our rivers, lakes, and ocean without being filtered or treated, leading to serious water quality issues throughout LA County that threaten public and environmental health.

Two main types of water flows through the storm drain system: (1) Stormwater, which is rainwater that cannot infiltrate into the ground naturally and instead builds up as it flows over the ground surface, and (2) dry weather runoff, which originates when it is not raining through activities such as overwatering lawns, or washing cars.

Water quality is much worse within 72 hours of a significant rain event in LA County. Last year alone, rain in our region accounted for almost 200 billion gallons of stormwater flushing through our storm drain system and into local bodies of water.

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Under the Federal Clean Water Act, anyone who discharges water is required to limit the concentration of pollution in that water. This requirement is regulated under a permit to discharge water. The discharge of polluted stormwater and dry weather runoff through the storm drain system is regulated by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board through an MS4 Permit. Cities and counties are permittees under an MS4 Permit, and are each responsible for their polluted stormwater and dry weather runoff.

The LA County MS4 Permit has been around since 1990, but in 2012 water quality had not improved much at all since then. The last update to the permit occurred in 2012, and, to our dismay, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board unanimously voted to approve a 2012 MS4 Permit that was even worse than before – essentially setting up a scheme of self-regulation (meaning no regulation).

By no longer forcing cities that discharge millions of gallons of runoff into the storm drain system to adhere to strict numeric pollution limits, the Board took a giant step backward in protecting water quality throughout Southern California.

Under the 2012 rules, cities just had to submit a plan for reducing stormwater pollution (called a Watershed Management Plan) to the Board and have it approved to be in compliance, rather than having to actually demonstrate they are not exceeding specific thresholds for specific pollutants, such as copper or E. coli bacteria. These plans allow each permittee to choose the types of projects to build, and the timeline on which to build them. But these plans are adjusted each year, continuously drawing out implementation, and they do not include any clear way to determine if the permittee is making good progress.

We knew that this would slow progress even more, leaving stormwater pollution unchecked at the expense of public safety and aquatic health. Seven years later, we have the numbers to prove it.

In the next few weeks, Heal the Bay will be releasing a new report assessing the progress toward managing stormwater pollution in Los Angeles County, and how we can fix the permit when it is renewed in early 2020.

In the meantime, we encourage you to safely document photos and videos of trashed waterways and beaches, clogged storm drains, and stormwater pollution in LA County after it rains. Remember, safety first! Proceed with caution, observe all posted signs, and watch out for heavy flowing water. If you do snag a good image, please tag your location, #LArain, @healthebay and #healthebay. You can also tag relevant government officials to help raise awareness.



Nancy Shrodes, Associate Director of Policy and Outreach at Heal the Bay, shares our top five reasons for opposing an ocean desalination plant in the Santa Monica Bay. Join our Anti-Desal Rally on November 18 — this is our LAST CHANCE to speak out against the proposed $480-million dollar plant that will literally suck the life out of our Bay.

West Basin, a water wholesaler for seventeen cities serving nearly one million people in LA County, is proposing to build an ocean desalination plant in the Santa Monica Bay.

West Basin released their Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on October 23, 2019 for a local plant that would produce twenty million gallons-a-day (MGD), and potentially an expanded regional plant at sixty MGD. It would be placed adjacent to the coast in El Porto, using some decommissioned infrastructure from the El Segundo Generating Station (ESGS) located at 301 Vista del Mar in the City of El Segundo, California.


Why we oppose ocean desal in LA

Ocean desalination currently does not exist in the Santa Monica Bay, and its arrival would bear concerning consequences for the Bay. Heal the Bay joins many other NGOs, municipalities, state agencies, and individual community members voicing concerns about the project. We oppose the proposed ocean desalination plant for the following reasons.

1. Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water.

It is even two times more expensive than our imported water supplies that come from the State Water Project and the Colorado Aqueduct, which travel hundreds of miles to be delivered to SoCal. In fact, just moving water from Northern California up and over the Tehachapi Mountains is the single biggest energy use in the entire state, but ocean desalination uses more energy! And in the midst of our climate crisis in which we have an eleven year ticking clock, choosing ocean desalination (the most energy intensive form of water) to augment our water supply, would be a big step in the wrong direction.

2. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.”

West Basin is proposing an open ocean intake pipe with a screen, despite the fact that subsurface intake (a less harmful method of water intake) is recommended in the State’s Ocean Plan. In open ocean intake, small larval stage animals can be sucked into the system despite the screen (entrainment), and small fish that cannot fight the velocity of the intake water (at thirty feet per minute) can get stuck against the screen (impingement). The brine left over from desalination is extremely salty, and also contains any contaminants like metals that were in the ocean water originally as well as chemicals used in the desal process. This extremely concentrated brine water is disposed of via jet diffusers back into the ocean, which can be very toxic to marine organisms. As salt is much denser than freshwater, the discharged brine can accumulate and pool along the ocean floor. Considering the negative impacts of such a project, Heal the Bay believes ocean desal should only be used as a last resort for the region.

3. West Basin’s project is currently unfunded, which means that ultimately the price tag will lie with the ratepayers themselves.

West Basin currently quotes the project at half a billion dollars, but as we saw with the Carlsbad Poseidon plant, it’s likely underestimated. Ocean desalinated water from Poseidon ended up being four times more expensive than their original projected cost per acre foot of water. And the high cost of water is an environmental justice issue. West Basin has already had high costs in their environmental review process totaling $60 million to $80 million to date.


West Basin’s Service Area includes: Carson, Culver City, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and City of West Hollywood.

4. Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort.

What about other places that have pursued ocean desalination? Santa Barbara commissioned a plant that was built in 1991 as an emergency response to drought. After four months of use, it was mothballed when the rains came because rainwater provided a much more cost-effective source of water. A similar situation happened in Australia. During a historic twelve year drought, they built six ocean desal plants. Four have since been decommissioned. Although Santa Barbara has turned their plant back on and Australia, in the face of another drought, is considering recommissioning a plant, it’s not without significant costs (you can’t just flip a switch to turn back on an idle plant). There are other places, like Israel, who have excelled in conservation and recycle almost all of their water, but still can’t meet their water demand. Since Israel had no other choice to meet their demand, they turned to desalination. Only as a last resort, once all alternative water sources are exercised to the fullest extent, should ocean desal be considered.

5. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue.

  • Conservation is the best choicethe cheapest form of water is water not used. LADWP customers averaged eighty gallons per person per day (gpd), while some water customers in LA County use upwards of two-hundred gpd. After Australia’s twelve year drought, residents upped conservation efforts and now operate around forty-five gpd. Needless to say, we still have a long way to go towards conservation and efficiency.
  • Stormwater capture is another amazing source of local water. In an average one inch rainstorm in LA, ten billion gallons of water rush through our city streets, pick up pollution, and are sent straight out to the ocean. For a region that gets ten to eleven inches of rain per year on average, that’s a lot of local water we can take advantage of. Luckily, in November 2018 we passed Measure W, which provides funding to create and maintain stormwater capture projects! The Safe, Clean Water program is well on its way to cleaning up our water and putting it to good use.
  • Water recycling and groundwater augmentation are other great options. In fact, West Basin has been a leader in Wastewater Recycling, and we would love to see them continue in that direction. And just this year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced 100% water recycling in Los Angeles by 2035! It makes no sense to clean the wastewater up well enough to discharge into the ocean, only to pull it out of the ocean further south. Cut out the ocean middle man with wastewater recycling. We need to continue to cleanup any contaminated aquifers, and recharge our local groundwater storage that we are so lucky to have plenty of in the region.

For these reasons, among others, the Smarter Water LA Coalition is asking West Basin to not certify their FEIR or move forward with the project. The draft EIR resulted in more than two-hundred comments from NGOs, municipalities, state agencies, and individual community members voicing concerns about the project, many of which were not adequately addressed in the final EIR. Ultimately, the five publicly elected Board of Directors will decide if they should move forward with the project or not.

Make your voice heard

Join us on Monday, November 18 at 2:15 pm in Carson for a Rally and the Special Board meeting to let West Basin know how you feel. This is our LAST CHANCE to oppose the ocean desal plant in El Segundo! Remember to wear blue, and bring your anti-desal signs.

RSVP TO RALLY

 


 

Can’t attend our Rally or looking to spread the word? We recommend taking the following actions BEFORE November 18 to make your voice heard:

  1. Send your concerns to West Basin directly by email
    • Sample Email: I oppose an ocean desal plant in El Segundo for the following reasons: Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.” Your project is currently unfunded, which means that ultimately the price tag will lie with the ratepayers themselves. Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue. I strongly urge West Basin’s Board of Directors to NOT build this proposed plant. Sincerely, YOUR NAME, YOUR CITY
  2. Tweet at West Basin with your concerns
    • Sample Tweet: We Don’t Want Desal in the Santa Monica Bay! Ocean desalination is the MOST expensive, energy intensive and environmentally harmful way to get local water. Desal doesn’t belong in LA. I urge @WestBasin to NOT build this proposed plant. 

  1. Retweet this post: https://twitter.com/HealTheBay/status/1191511709229502464
  2. Share with your network on Facebook and Instagram:
    • I oppose an ocean desal plant in El Segundo. That’s why I’m joining Heal the Bay at their Anti-Desal Rally on Nov. 18. Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.” Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue. Join me at healthebay.org/desalrally



Our team at Frogspot in Elysian Valley. The LA River’s soft, mud-bottom sections are capable of supporting vegetation and wildlife.

In the summer of 2019, Heal the Bay’s team of water quality monitors spent many sunny days gathering freshwater samples from Malibu Creek State Park and the LA River, and testing them for bacterial-pollution in the lab. (Dive deeper into the findings.)

We’re thankful to partner with Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) who allowed us to work out of one of their labs, managed by Manuel Robles. As always, our team included local students eager to learn about water quality and public health. Along with sampling, this group also took part in outreach, educating and encouraging more people to be invested in improving the health of the LA River Watershed.

Read on for some of our team’s favorite highlights from the summer

Erik Solis
My favorite part about the summer program was not only the job itself, but the outreach to younger students who show interest in environmental science. I was able to tell them about what I do for Heal the Bay, why it matters, and how they can contribute themselves. It all comes together to make a positive impact in the community and encourage young minds to promote a cleaner L.A. watershed. I enjoyed the work I’ve done this summer, as I know I have done a huge service to the L.A. river area. I can recall this one time a couple of fishermen and women said, “Hey, the Bay healers are here!” Another favorite part was participating in the Coastal Cleanup day on September 21st, as not only was I able to meet a lot of people, talk to students, and clean up a river, but I was also able to bring my family out to participate and enjoy doing their part in doing a service to the Greater Los Angeles Area. I have also enjoyed the lab work, but it was a little overshadowed by the field work.
Stephanie Alvarez
As someone who grew in Los Angeles I wasn’t as aware of how much nature we still have in the city, and I want to help protect it and the people who want to enjoy it. My most favorite memory was when a few of us got to speak to high school students and saw how most of them grasped the urgency of keeping our water clean. They all had their own unique ideas and all agreed that keeping our waters clean was very important. This gave me even more hope that we will be able to save our bodies of water. As someone who wants to help find ways to clean water, in an effective and cheap manner, this experience helped me see the problem in different angles. I went into this program thinking only of how to clean water to drink it, and now I am thinking about how we can make it clean enough for people to swim in and wildlife to thrive in. This program helped me gain experience in the lab and helped me dream bigger. We were so lucky to have worked alongside many amazing people, and I wanted to thank Luke for being an amazing leader! I suggest, if you are reading this and you want to help your planet, to get involved. There are so many programs and events that you can sign up for free. Change always starts with one person! Together we can save our planet and our wildlife!
Blaire Edwards
I started off by trying something different and left with an abundance of information about the environment around me. My favorite part of this experience had to be learning about all the matters happening environmentally and what I can do to get more involved and help make a difference.
Christina Huggins
With so many adventurers heading outdoors to enjoy the summer weather, the highlight of sampling water quality for Heal the Bay this summer was the opportunity to connect with the community and educate them about their environment. From early morning hikes through the Santa Monica Mountains to curious explorers and hikers asking questions about our yellow boots and sample bottles. Getting the opportunity to be a part of keeping the public informed about freshwater quality has given me a new direction in my career and educational path.
Michelle Allen
The biggest highlight of working on the team this summer is knowing that what we do and the information we collect makes it to the general public. The fact that our samples that we test affect people’s choices to make safer decisions, is a huge part of why I love being a part of this team. Collecting samples is always something fun to me. I love the fact that we go out into nature and see how the land changes each time we go out while meeting people along the way.
Olivia Garcia
My favorite part of the summer was collecting water samples for analysis. I liked being able to see, understand, and make note of the factors that could potentially contaminate the water quality in the river. I was also fascinated with the quality control protocol. I gained a lot of knowledge about the importance of consistency in documentation and testing, and a better intuitive understanding of quality control as a whole. It’s hard to pick out what the overall highlight of the summer was because it was all so amazing.
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Christina and Michelle collecting samples from the popular Rock Pool in Malibu Creek State Park.

Learn more about our summer of freshwater sampling and our River Report Card.




Image from STAND-L.A. Facebook page

Meredith McCarthy, Operations Director at Heal the Bay, highlights the STAND-L.A. coalition and why the City of LA must take action now to protect public health and the environment, including investing in good green jobs, protecting our children’s health, buffering communities and phasing out fossil fuels.

The STAND-L.A. coalition is urging Los Angeles City Hall to take action by implementing public health protection measures, including a 2,500-foot setback between active oil wells and sensitive land uses, such as homes, schools, places of work and medical facilities. The coalition, led by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Communities for a Better Environment, seeks to phase out neighborhood drilling in order to protect the health and safety of Angelenos on the front lines of oil extraction. Low-income neighborhoods are exposed to disproportionate health and safety risks due to a history of abundant drilling within close proximity to where residents live, work and go about daily life.

Heal the Bay proudly stands in solidarity with STAND-L.A. Oil extraction is simply incompatible with healthy neighborhoods, thriving oceans and a sustainable future for our planet.

We know firsthand that fighting Big Oil is a heavy lift. Years ago, Heal the Bay helped lead a coalition that defeated a slant drilling oil project under the sea in Hermosa Beach. Now, we cannot sit back satisfied that we prevented an oil rig in the ocean only to see it turn up in a neighborhood.

We joined the STAND-L.A. coalition at City Hall on Tuesday, October 15 for the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee hearing. The Committee reviewed the City’s Petroleum Administrator’s feasibility report on the proposed setbacks between oil sites and sensitive land uses. The report suggested a 600-foot setback for existing oil and gas wells and a 1,500-foot setback for new wells. Coalition members argued this doesn’t go far enough, and rightly so.

Having lived through many environmental policy campaigns—where industries claimed that our economy would collapse and jobs would be lost if we banned plastic bags, cleaned up stormwater or prevented sewage from dumping into the Bay—I expected a similar argument to justify continuing to drill. So I was not surprised as I listened to testimony at City Hall that the pressing issue of drilling in our neighborhoods, once again, was being framed as a binary debate between “good jobs” versus “healthy neighborhoods”.

The coalition argued that this foolish debate will never be won by prioritizing one issue over the other. Environmental and public health risks won’t be solved either. We can only make progress by thinking about the issue holistically – investing in good green jobs now weans us off our harmful addiction to oil. Protecting our children’s health now leads to a more equitable future. Buffering communities now builds a more resilient LA. Phasing out fossil fuels now creates new job and economic opportunities… and not to mention a more sustainable planet that’s facing increasingly severe impacts from climate change.

Time and time again, Los Angeles has made bold moves to protect public and environmental health. But, what happens when cities can’t afford to buy a healthy environment from oil drilling lease holders to protect its residents, or worse, cities choose to ignore the damage being done? This is the question that the City of LA is grappling with. Will we invest in long-term sustainability or will city leaders be tempted by temporary job gains and the promise of future revenue?

It’s important to make the connection to plastics here, too. What do plastics and fossil fuels have in common, you ask? The plastics industry uses as much oil as aviation. So when we think about oil drilling in neighborhoods, we must also think about why we are drilling there in the first place.

The more cheap energy and cheap plastic material we use, the more waste we generate and the greater the environmental costs. The search for profit has turned a blind eye to the burdens and costs of poor air and water quality that low-resourced neighborhoods must carry.

Plastics use is expected to quadruple by 2050. In 30 years, the weight of plastics is likely to outweigh that of fish in our ocean. Plastic waste is already having a profound impact on oceans and marine life. It is found inside animals throughout the ocean food chain, from mussels to sea turtles to whales, and is likely to end up in the human food chain. These are the conclusions from a new report released at Davos by the World Economics Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and consultancy firm McKinsey.

Environmental costs translate directly into economic costs. We can’t afford inaction and we can’t ignore the negative impacts on our communities, from blight to toxic air.

Please take a second to call or email your City Council representative and demand good jobs AND a healthy neighborhood. Insist that our region start working toward not just a new economy, but a new generative economy. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and a 2,500-foot setback.

Follow STAND L.A. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and watch this hashtag for updates #NoDrillingWhereWereLiving.



The California legislative season has officially ended and the transformative waste reduction policies, SB 54 and AB 1080, did not pass. However, they did not fail either! The bills were never voted on, so they are still eligible for votes starting in January 2020 and throughout the 2020 session.

We know this isn’t the news you wanted to hear – and we share your deep disappointment. But, there is always a silver lining, right?

Heal the Bay, along with our Clean Seas Coalition, did make incredible headway this year thanks to the momentum you helped create. Here are three things re-energizing us to keep fighting for plastic reduction policies:

1. The time for us to act is now: Landmark legislation that transforms industry practices can take years to pass. Your voice of support changed the conversation. Now, it’s not a matter of IF we will pass legislation that reduces single-use plastics, it is a matter of WHEN. Representatives and manufacturers heard our message loud and clear: The longer we delay the inevitable push to reduce single-use plastics, the more damage is done to public health and the natural environment.

2. Every bit of progress counts: While we didn’t see this monumental legislation pass, action was taken in California this year to reduce waste. Lawmakers approved multiple recycling and single-use plastic waste reduction bills that are now on the Governor’s desk for signing. AB 54 will provide $5 million to fund a pilot mobile recycling project overseen by CalRecycle. AB 792 includes a requirement that plastic bottles be made of 50% recycled materials by 2030. AB 1162 will curb single-use plastic bottles in the lodging industry. AB 1583 (The California Recycling Market Development Act) is focused on developing and bolstering the state’s recycling market as a response to China’s National Sword Policy. SB 8/AB 1718 will ban smoking in state beaches and parks and combat the number one item we find on beaches at cleanups, cigarette butts. And, earlier this summer, Governor Newsom signed the newly approved AB 619 into law, which allows vendors at concerts and festivals in California to serve food on reusable containers. There is another comprehensive piece of environmental legislation – SB 1 – that protects California from the effects of recent and future environmental protection rollbacks. SB 1 ensures that our state maintains tough standards under the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act. We hope to see Governor Newsom sign all of these bills into law!


Trash collected at a Heal the Bay cleanup in 2019. Photo by Marvin Pineda

3. Big change can happen locally: Heal the Bay is zooming in on local regulations and activities that reduce single-use plastics here at home in the Los Angeles region. For example, we’re hoping more communities and cities in Los Angeles will reduce plastic waste by adopting ordinances aimed at tackling single-use and disposable items. Wherever you may be located, we encourage you to attend a city council meeting or a town hall near you and speak during the public comment session about your concerns. When we pass strong policies locally, there is a greater likelihood that the state will take similar action. Check out our FAQs to bust some common myths about passing plastic reduction legislation.

We will continue to push for local and statewide single-use waste reduction to protect our communities and our environment in 2020 and beyond. Thank you to everyone who supported our efforts to combat plastic pollution. From the 410,000+ people who signed our petition to the thousands of people who called their representatives and posted on social media in support of SB 54 and AB 1080, thank you.

 

Finally, thank you to the authors of this legislation, Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, we could not have made it this far without you.



Photo by: Kids Ocean Day

California is on the cusp of passing a transformative bill to reduce plastic pollution, and we need your help to get there.

In February of this year, a small group of California State Senators and Assemblymembers came together and introduced a pair of bills to address plastic pollution. Known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) and Assembly Bill 1080 (AB 1080), are poised to become transformative legislation in the global fight against plastic pollution.

California is currently in the midst of a waste crisis. With waste haulers no longer able to export recyclables to countries like China and India for disposal, our plastic trash is piling up, yet our throw-away lifestyle continues to grow. If we continue on with business as usual, we can expect to see a 40% increase in plastic production over the next decade, and more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

Plastic pollution is infiltrating our environment and our communities, carrying with it harmful toxins and contributing to climate change. And the cost of cleaning it all up? That falls on taxpayers. In California, we spend $420 million annually on litter prevention and removal. The time for drastic action is now, and SB 54 and AB 1080 can get us there.

Heal the Bay has been closely tracking and supporting this legislation since it was introduced. At its core, the bills function similarly to the greenhouse gas emissions limit bill of 2006 (SB 32) by setting a reduction target for single-use plastic packaging and products of 75% by 2030. Check out our FAQ for the full break down of the legislative language. Since their introduction, the bills have been amended to include a top 10 list of priority single-use plastic products that will be covered first (to be determined from statewide beach cleanup data, like Heal the Bay’s) and a comprehensive compliance program to ensure producers are reaching their reduction goals.

If SB 54 and AB 1080 pass, California will be at the forefront of the global fight against plastic pollution, and Heal the Bay has been working tirelessly alongside our partners to make that happen. But, now we need your help. The bills will be voted on by September 13 (we don’t know the exact date) and if they pass, they go on to the Governor and need to be signed by him before October 13.



Heal the Bay joined a host of environmental organizations to rally at the California State Capitol in support of the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (SB 54 & AB 1080) on August 21, 2019.


Make Your Voice Heard

Our Senators and Assemblymembers need to hear from YOU now!

Please call your representative and tell them you support SB 54 and AB 1080. A call takes two minutes or less, and it makes a world of difference for our representatives to hear from their constituents.

  1. First, Find your representative.
  2. Second, Call your rep! You can use the script below and add any information of your own to tell them you support The California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. Together, we can pass these bills and make history!

Sample Call Script:
Hello, my name is ____________________and I live in _____________________. As your constituent, I’m calling to urge you to support Assembly Bill 1080 and Senate Bill 54, which would reduce plastic pollution in California by 75% by 2030 and reduce the increasing costs of cleanups that are falling on taxpayers.

Plastic pollution is no longer just an environmental problem, it is a financial issue and a public health concern. Right now we are in the midst of a recycling crisis, and California is unable to deal with mounting plastic waste.

Our communities and our environment need to be protected now. That’s why I’m urging you to support AB 1080 and SB 54 in addressing plastic pollution before it’s too late. Thank you.

 



Prioritizing water quality, nature-based solutions, sustained community engagement, equity, and good local jobs!

Los Angeles County made history last November when voters overwhelmingly approved Measure W (the Safe, Clean Water Program) to revamp our outdated stormwater system! And this vote did not come a moment too soon. In the 2018-2019 rain season, 18.8 inches of rain fell over Los Angeles County. This equates to almost 200 billion gallons of stormwater flowing through our streets, into our waterways and out to the ocean, picking up pollutants along the way that pose serious risks to public and environmental health. We can no longer stand to let stormwater pollute our waters, and we can no longer afford to let good rain years go to waste.

There is good news: Thanks to LA County voters, we now have the Safe, Clean Water Program to fund stormwater projects throughout our region to capture, clean, and reuse this water resource! Heal the Bay (a core team member of the OurWaterLA Coalition), along with our dedicated members and volunteers, played a huge roll in this victory vote in November 2018. Since then, OurWaterLA has continued to work closely with County staff to implement the Program.

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Annelisa Moe and Luke Ginger, Heal the Bay water quality scientists, converse quietly during the public comment period. (Photo by Alex Choy)

Today, the Safe, Clean Water Program moved forward with a unanimous vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to approve the Implementation Ordinance, reiterating the County’s commitment to improve water quality and public health, prioritize nature-based solutions, promote local jobs, and provide multiple benefits to our communities. Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis also called for a multi-agency committee to help coordinate efforts to implement multi-benefit projects, which will allow for the leveraging of funds from other sources including Measure M, Measure A, and Measure H.

However, there is still work to be done to ensure that these promises are kept as the Program rolls out. Although the Implementation Ordinance is finalized, many of the important supporting documents are still in development, and do not yet reflect the goals listed above. OurWaterLA turned out in full force to make recommendations for how these supporting documents can be strengthened to prioritize nature-based solutions, community voices, equity, and local jobs.

The Board of Supervisors also voted to appoint 107 members to the Watershed Area Steering Committees and the Regional Oversight Committee. These committees will decide how the Regional Program funds will be spent. But our work is not done! These funding decisions must be made with consideration given to community input. Search your address and find out which watershed area you are in, then see a list of your Watershed Area Steering Committee members, and get to know your committee representatives.

As you peruse the list of committee members, you will recognize one of them already! Heal the Bay President and CEO, Shelley Luce, has been appointed to the Regional Oversight Committee, which reviews the funding decisions for each of the nine Watershed Area Steering Committees.

Heal the Bay will continue to play a pivotal role as implementation moves forward. Committees will start to meet by the end of summer 2019, calling for projects in the fall, which will receive funding as soon as it is available in spring 2020. Stay tuned in the coming months to hear about exciting projects that will be funded by the Safe, Clean Water Program!