Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Long Beach / Avalon

Cabrillo Beach is seen empty after the city of Long Beach closed the beaches due to a report of a spill of between two and four million gallons of untreated sewage into a canal in Carson, in Long Beach, California, US. December 31, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. (REUTERS / DAVID SWANSON –

A massive and dangerous sewage spill happened late last week in Carson. Millions of gallons of raw sewage flowed through residential areas, into storm drains, in the Dominguez Channel, and out to the ocean.

Some Long Beach beaches, OC beaches and LA beaches are closed and will remain so until daily water quality testing for fecal-indicator bacterial pollution shows contaminants have reached an allowable level.

Heal the Bay is calling on officials and agencies to increase water quality monitoring during emergencies and to prevent sewage spills from happening by rapidly updating aging infrastructure.

Follow Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card for the latest water quality information.




Spotlighting Belmont Pier in Long Beach, a busy fishing spot, and Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program.

Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier is located in Long Beach near the Belmont Shore neighborhood. The current pier opened in 1967 and is 1,800 feet long. At the end of the pier, there is a large hexagonal area with two “wings” extending 120 feet from each side, giving the pier an overall T-shape.  

Belmont Pier is popular for fishing and like other piers, a fishing license is not required to fish there. However, anglers must make sure to follow fishing regulations regarding size, limits, and seasons for certain species.  

Over the last 18 years, Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program (AOP) has been educating anglers at Belmont Pier (and 7 other piers) about fish contamination, which fish to avoid eating, and which fish are safe to eat. This program is part of the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC)which is managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program about the Palos Verdes Shelf superfund site.  

The Belmont Pier is located in the red zone, where levels of DDT and PCBs are high due to the nearby contaminated site. These toxins can travel through the food chain and accumulate in certain fish – fish caught in the red zone that should not be consumed are the white croaker, black croaker, barred sand bass,  topsmelt,  and barracuda.  

Our Angler Outreach Program is currently suspended due to COVID-19, but when we were able to have in-person outreach, Belmont Pier was regularly one of the top piers in terms of numbers of anglers we talked to. In 2018, we reached 9,801 anglers across 8 piers in the LA region. AOP team members visited all the piers for equal amounts of time, but talked to over 2,500 anglers at Belmont Pier alone (approximately 25%).

Belmont Pier on February 25, 2021

When we conduct outreach to anglers, we also collect data on the types of fish they are catching and each anglers’ zip code . We collect zip code data from new anglers,  and those we have not done outreach to before. In 2018, we collected zip codes from 1,165 anglers at Belmont Pier. The areas where the most anglers came from included Long Beach, as well as surrounding inland areas of Carson, Bellflower, Paramount, and Huntington Park. Collecting this data helps ensure that outreach is also conducted in the communities where anglers reside, through the community partners of the FCEC, along with piers.

In 2018, we documented that anglers at Belmont Pier caught 1,051 fish (over a total survey time of ~144 hours). Of those fish, the majority (85%) were mackerel. We did find that 61 (or 6%) of those fish were on the “do not consume” list, including white croaker, topsmelt, and barred sand bass. There is still a need to continue educating anglers about fish contamination and ensuring that they have the knowledge to protect themselves and their families.

Ver En Español

Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier está ubicado en Long Beach, cerca del vecindario Belmont Shore. El muelle actual se inauguró en 1967 y tiene 1.800 pies de largo. Al final del muelle, hay una gran área hexagonal con dos “alas” que se extienden 120 pies desde cada lado, lo que le da al muelle una forma de T general.

Belmont Pier es popular para pescar y, al igual que otros muelles, no se requiere una licencia de pesca para pescar allí. Sin embargo, los pescadores deben asegurarse de seguir las regulaciones de pesca con respecto al tamaño, límites y temporadas para ciertas especies.

Durante los últimos 18 años, el Programa Educacional Pequero de Heal the Bay (AOP, por sus siglas en inglés) ha estado educando a los pescadores en Belmont Pier (y otros 7 muelles) sobre la contaminación de peces, cuales evitar consumir y qué peces son seguros para el consumo. AOP es parte de Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC), que es administrado por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de los EE. UU. (EPA) como parte de un programa de divulgación y educación pública de gran alcance sobre el sitio Superfund de Palos Verdes Shelf.

El muelle de Belmont está ubicado en la zona roja, donde los niveles de DDT y PCB son altos debido a la cercanía con el sitio contaminado. Estas toxinas pueden viajar a través de la cadena alimentacia y acumularse en ciertos peces. Los peces capturados en la zona roja que no deben consumirse son la corvineta blanca, corvineta negra, cabrilla, pejerrey y barracuda.

Nuestro Programa Educacional de Pesca está actualmente suspendido debido a COVID-19, pero cuando estuvimos presente, el muelle de Belmont fue regularmente uno de nuestros principales muelles en términos de cantidad de pescadores. En 2018, llegamos a 9.801 pescadores en 8 muelles en la región de Los Ángeles; Los miembros del equipo de AOP visitaron todos los muelles durante la misma cantidad de tiempo, pero hablaron con más de 2.500 pescadores solo en Belmont Pier (aproximadamente el 25%).

Cuando llevamos a cabo actividades de divulgación con los pescadores, también recopilamos datos sobre los tipos de peces que capturan y códigos postales de dónde residen. En el 2018, recopilamos códigos postales de 1,165 pescadores en Belmont Pier. Los códigos postales de donde provenían la mayoría de los pescadores incluían Long Beach, así como las áreas circundantes de Carson, Bellflower, Paramount y Huntington Park. La recopilación de estos datos ayudan a garantizar que la divulgación también se lleve a cabo en las comunidades donde viven los pescadores, a través de nuestros socios de FCEC.

En el 2018, documentamos que los pescadores en Belmont Pier capturaron 1,051 peces (durante un tiempo total de encuesta de aproximadamente 144 horas). De esos peces, la mayoría (85%) eran macarelas. Descubrimos también que 61 (o el 6%) de esos peces estaban en la lista de “no consumir”, incluida la corvineta blanca, pejerrey y cabrilla. Es necesario continuar educando a los pescadores sobre la contaminación de peces y asegurarse de que tengan los conocimientos necesarios para protegerse a sí mismos y a sus familias.

View in English 

The waves curl and crash ashore before slowly bubbling back to sea, a potion of water, foam and sand. The light of the full moon grazes the sandy beach at its feet while a bright Pacific breeze wanders through the night. There’s an air of romance. Thousands of wild fish certainly got the memo as they flop and dance around on the beach, performing one of nature’s most exceptional reproduction rituals.

If you’ve never witnessed a grunion run, you’ve been missing out on a classic Southern California beach tradition! Tonight and over the next few weeks you will have the rare opportunity to spot grunion coming to spawn.

Heal the Bay’s Marine Scientist Dana Murray answers some common questions about these special fish:

What are grunion?
Grunion are a sleek, silver fish that are most well known for their unique spawning behavior. These charismatic 6” fish surf the waves to shore, flop onto land to lay and fertilize eggs in the moonlight on our local beaches. Grunion are found in California (including Baja) and nowhere else in the world!

Why do they come to shore?
Grunion come to shore to lay their eggs at high tide. Spawning on sandy beaches, their eggs remain buried in the sand where they incubate for about two weeks until the next high tide comes and they hatch and return the ocean. The premier grunion expert in the world, Dr. Karen Martin, has written a book, “Beach-Spawning Fishes: Reproduction in an Endangered Ecosystem,” where you can read all about these fascinating fish.

When is the best time to try and see them?
At nighttime high tides during the spring and summer. Grunion may run as early as March on into September but peak season is from the start of April through June. Runs typically occur for a few nights after the highest tides during full and new moons. Your best chance to spot them is to plan ahead and stay out on the beach for an hour or so on either end of high tide.

Consult this grunion run 2017 schedule for the best times to observe these “silver surfers.”

What So Cal spots are best to try and spot them?
All you need is sand and a very high tide at night during grunion season! In the greater Los Angeles area, good grunion run locations include Surfrider in Malibu, Cabrillo Beach in Santa Pedro, Santa Monica State Beach, Hermosa Beach and Venice Beach.

What can I expect to see?
Although grunion sightings are never guaranteed, with a keen eye you can increase your chances. Look for predators such as black-crowned night herons or raccoons waiting for the surfing silversides along the shore. Some grunion runs are just a few scouts flopping onto the beach, whereas other runs involve thousands of fish, covering the wet sand entirely!

What should I do to prepare?
Bring warm clothes, your patience and a friend to walk the shoreline with. Leave your dog at home, and come knowing that as with any wildlife it’s a chance and not a guarantee that you’ll see them.

Are there things I shouldn’t do?
Do not to touch or interfere with spawning – especially during closed fishing season (April and May). Also, don’t shine lights on the water or grunion as it can interfere with their spawning, as can loud talking and noisy crowds.

Are grunions doing well? Are they in danger in any way?
The grunion population is believed to have decreased, so it’s important to protect them during spawning for the future population. Leaving domestic predators like dogs at home is advised, as canines may devour the eggs or disturb the fish. Also, not disturbing the buried grunion eggs along the high tide line after a spawning event helps ensure that grunion remain around into the future.

Dr. Karen Martin from Pepperdine University regularly works with and trains beach groomers to avoid the high tide line in grunion season, so as not to disturb eggs. Beach grooming operators now follow a specific protocol during grunion season to avoid disturbing sand where grunion eggs incubate.

How can I help grunion?
Observers of grunion runs are urged to report the time and location of the run for scientific purposes for Grunion Greeters.

Try not to disturb spawning grunion, and encourage others to do the same. During open season, follow the Fish and Game Regulations (which include not using any form of gear, nets or traps – only bare hands) and encourage observation or “catch and release.”  If you observe poaching or any violations of grunion fishing regulations, such as use of gear or nets, please advise the California Department of Fish and Game or call 1-888-DFG-CALTIP.

July 22, 2016 — Science and policy director Rita Kampalath gets to the bottom of the massive sewage spill that made a mess of the L.A. River.

Perfect blue sky, 95 degrees outside … and the beaches are closed??

After years of hard work, Heal the Bay is thankful that the days of sewage fouling our waterways are largely behind us. But we got a bad flashback to the old days this week when an estimated 1.75 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the L.A. River late Monday and early Tuesday. The spill itself was estimated at 2.5 million gallons, roughly 800,000 gallons of which were captured before they reached the river. A rupture in an aging sewer pipe in the Boyle Heights area had been identified as the likely culprit.

We’ve heard a lot about our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and L.A. isn’t immune to these issues. But the City of Los Angeles’ decision to invest in sewer upgrades over the past few years has largely paid off.

An estimated investment of $200M per year has resulted in an 85% reduction of sanitary sewer overflows (i.e., sewage spills) since 2000. But when popular shorelines in Long Beach and Seal Beach are closed for days because of a spill, you know a major amount of waste must have been discharged and something had seriously gone wrong.

I wanted to find out more about what could have caused such a catastrophic failure of a major sewer line and what was being done to fix it. So Thursday morning, the City of L.A. Bureau of Sanitation staff graciously offered to give me an up-close-and-personal view of the rupture area.

Site of the bridge demolitionWe pulled up to the site, located where active construction is already going on – the highly publicized demolition of the 6th Street Bridge in Boyle Heights. The immediate rupture area was now cleared of the heavy machinery ever-present during the months-long razing of the iconic bridge, but I could still hear demolition crews working nearby. I couldn’t help but wonder if all this heavy construction nearby might have played a role in the failure of the sewer line.

As we surveyed the damage, City staff explained that the spill was detected following sinkholes that had recently formed in the road, roughly at the intersection of Mission Road and 6th Street. These collapses and the associated debris ruptured and then clogged the massive 60-inch trunk line known as the North Outfall Sewer (NOS), causing a back-up of waste, which, given the volume flowing through the enormous pipe, quickly and unfortunately made it into the river.

With crews working around the clock, a diversion was ultimately put into place to direct sewage around the damaged pipe. Cleanup quickly commenced and is still ongoing.

In the early days after a troubling incident like this, we have at least as many questions as answers. We are urging the City to continue investigating the causes and impacts of the spill. What conditions underground led to the sinkholes? Did the months of construction and associated heavy machinery and demolition play a role? What safeguards were put into place to protect the relatively shallow sewer lines during the demolition? The top of the NOS is only 16 feet below ground.

What sort of controls will be put into place to avoid future spills along our key waterways? And, who will be held accountable for this spill? It is also a keen reminder that we need to continue to invest in our aging infrastructure to avoid incidents like this in the future.

When our region’s famously perfect weather starts to veer towards scorching, people want to take advantage of another enviable asset – our recreational waters. But they need to know a day at the beach isn’t going to make them sick.

Barry Berggren, Rita Kampalath, Brian McCormick, and Adel Hagekhalil
Left to right: Barry Berggren, Rita Kampalath, Brian McCormick, and Adel Hagekhalil

So we commend and thank the authorities in Long Beach and Orange County for making the wise decision to prioritize public health and close the beaches as soon as news of the sewage spill came out. But it’s a shame that on this hot weekend some of our best avenues for relief may be out of commission. As a watchdog of our local waterways, Heal the Bay will continue to track the investigation and follow-up on this massive spill, advocating for appropriate accountability measures and preventative actions to protect our vital rivers and beaches.

Spills are fortunately rare occurrences on the river. But chronic bacterial pollution still plagues some of its popular recreational zones. That’s not good news for the increasing number of people who are now kayaking, swimming and angling in its waters.

My colleague Katherine Pease and her team have been collecting and analyzing water samples along the river for harmful bacteria. Next week she will release the results of her study. Let’s just say that if you care about public health, you will be very interested in its findings. Stay tuned.

July 20, 2016 — UPDATE: L.A. Sanitation estimates that 2,853,200 gallons of sewage was released from the broken sewer during Monday’s spill. Of this amount, 829,100 gallons were contained and returned to the sewer system, while 1,754,100 gallons ultimately reached the Los Angeles River. Emergency sewer repair crews are constructing a permanent bypass system to divert sewage flow around the portion of the pipe that collapsed.

We are still awaiting more complete water quality data from Long Beach and Seal Beach.

July 19, 2016 — BREAKING NEWS: Yesterday afternoon around 2 p.m., a large sewage pipe ruptured near Boyle Heights, spilling 2.4 million gallons of sewage into the L.A. River. The river empties out in Long Beach, so, as a precautionary measure, all beaches in the city of Long Beach are currently closed until further notice. Beaches in Seal Beach from the mouth of the San Gabriel River to Anaheim Bay are also closed.

It’s too early to pinpoint the exact cause of the spill, but aging water and sewage infrastructure is likely to blame: The pipe that collapsed was built in 1929.

While no sewage has been seen on the beach yet, ocean water samples are currently being tested for bacteria that could make swimmers sick. Results should be available on Wednesday, and beaches could reopen as early as Thursday.

Heal the Bay water quality scientists are in touch with public health officials and will keep this blog updated as the situation develops.

For the latest updates, follow us on Twitter at @healthebay and @beachreportcard.

Long Beach closed due to sewage spill (Image by Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Sources: Los Angeles Times,

Just in time for the last hurrah of summer, beachgoers on the West Coast can head to the shore this Labor Day secure that they’ll be swimming and playing in healthy water.  According to the 2013 End of Summer Beach Report Card®, beach water quality in California, Oregon and Washington was excellent for the fourth consecutive summer.

We collected water quality data at more than 640 monitoring locations along the West Coast between Memorial Day and Aug. 21, 2013. Then we assigned an A-to-F grade based on bacterial pollution levels. Nearly 96% of California beaches earned an A or B grade. Washington earned A or B grades at 91% of its beaches, and Oregon earned all A grades for the fourth consecutive year. 

To find out which beaches didn’t make the grade and how your county stacks up, consult our 2013 End of Summer Beach Report Card®:

Beachgoers can find out which beaches are safe, check recent water quality history and look up details on beach closures using our Beach Report Card. On the go? Download a free Beach Report Card mobile app for iPhone or Android.

The Beach Report Card Summer Shades Contest

APP UPDATE: We are currently experiencing some issues with the Beach Report Card App due to opperating system changes. In the meantime, please go directly to for all your healthy beach reporting needs!

Is the water quality at your favorite California beach shady? Find out in the Beach Report Card (BRC) Summer Shades Contest! Watch the water quality at your favorite beach and you could win an exclusive pair of Heal the Bay shades.


We’re giving away ten pairs of our limited edition “I Heal the Bay” sunglasses over the next ten days. Every day, starting Tuesday August 6th, we will pick a winner and announce them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To win a pair of shades, be the first to answer the daily trivia question found on our Facebook page.

To enter, download the Beach Report Card mobile app and leave your answer as a comment in the feedback tab including the hashtag #SummerShades.

Here’s How To Leave Feedback on the Beach Report Card App:

How-To Leave Feedback on the Beach Report Card App


Amy Smart sporting Heal the Bay sunglasses at Bring Back the Beach

Free Bird! You might be grateful to hear your favorite band cover this song…or not.

At Heal the Bay, we can say without irony that we are grateful to Freebirds in Agoura Hills for teaming with us to restore the Malibu Creek Watershed in January. Not only did a group of Freebirders join us, but they surprised us and brought burritos! It was an awesome day, pulling weeds, planting mulefat, eating burritos. Thank you, Freebirds!

A big thanks to the Gesso Foundation for their longtime support of our Key to the Sea program.  Due in large part to their generosity, we’ve successfully provided thousands of Los Angeles County-based students and their teachers (K-5th grade) with high-impact environmental education and memorable field trip experiences. For many of these students, participation in the program marked their first chance to explore the beach environment and witness marine life up close! 

The Gesso Foundation was created in accordance with the wishes expressed in the will of acclaimed artist Frank Moore, who died in 2002. The Foundation’s purpose is twofold: to preserve, protect, and expand awareness of Frank Moore’s art; and to support non-profit organizations devoted to the arts, social justice, environmental or AIDS-related causes.Morphing Swallow by artist-philanthropist Frank Moore

Much like Mary Poppins herself, moms rely on Mommy Poppins LA, consulting the site for non-boring, low-cost activities to do with kids. Meanwhile Heal the Bay and our Aquarium couldn’t spread the word about our kid-friendly, fun AND educational happenings without their help. As parents and as youth educators, we thank the staff at Mommy Poppins LA for being such a helpful resource.

Do you devote your free time to volunteer with Heal the Bay? Then it’s time for us to thank YOU. Please join us on February 19 at Bodega Wine Bar as we celebrate you and all that you do to help protect our Bay…and beyond.

Join us to help revive Malibu Creek by removing weeds and planting natives on February 10. 

Do you care about clean water in your community? Love putting on a show? Want to make change (not just the money kind)?

Join our elite Speakers Bureau team to help raise educational awareness across Los Angeles in schools, workplaces and social groups.

For more than 25 years, Heal the Bay has relied upon people just like you to help spread the word about ocean pollution.

Last year we were able to reach 55,000 people! Obviously, we can’t do this on our own: We need you!  

Our winter training sessions begin on Tuesday, March 5, 1-4:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles River Center. Sessions run through the month on Tuesdays in March  (the 12th and the 19th), with a talk on Saturday, March 16, 9:30 a.m.-noon at Venice Pier. Attendance at all sessions is mandatory.

Register for Winter Speakers Bureau Training.