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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Los Angeles

The Heal the Bay team created this brief voter guide for the November 6, 2018 midterm election in Los Angeles County. Did you know? California is one of a few states that allows “Conditional Voter Registration“. This means you can register to vote conditionally all the way through Election Day on November 6. Contact the Los Angeles County Election Office for more information if you still need to register to vote!  If you are voting by mail-in ballot, make sure to have your envelop postmarked by Nov. 6.

 

VOTE: Yes on Measure W 

The issue: Los Angeles is a water scarce region, and much of the water that we do have is polluted.  Stormwater runoff is now the number one source of pollution in our rivers, lakes and ocean.  The highly urbanized watersheds of L.A. County allow billions of gallons of stormwater to flow directly to our waterways, taking oil, trash, fecal bacteria and other contaminants with it.  In 2017, 100 billion gallons of water were wasted because we were not able to capture, clean and reuse it.  Measure W is the solution to turn stormwater from a hazard (pollution, flooding, wasted water) into an incredible resource – clean and safe water.

The stakes: Stormwater currently poses a serious risk to public and environmental health. A study conducted in Los Angeles and Orange Counties found that the regional public health cost of gastrointestinal illnesses caused by contact with polluted ocean waters was between $21 and $51 million each year.  It also brings water quality below federal standards, leaving cities vulnerable to violation fines up to $25,000 per day.  Cities throughout L.A. County have developed plans with specific projects to remove pollutants from stormwater, leaving clean water that can be recycled for beneficial uses; however, these projects cannot be completed without adequate funding.  That’s where Measure W comes in.

Our Recommendation: Save the Rain. Save L.A. County. Vote YES on W!


VOTE: No on Proposition 6 

The Issue: Transportation is currently one of the largest sources of carbon emissions, leading to poor air quality and other detrimental effects associated with climate change including ocean acidification and sea level rise.  We need to address the inadequacies of California’s transportation system, but unfortunately, California’s local public transportation agencies have faced budget shortages for more than a decade.  Proposition 6 would repeal transportation taxes and fees provisions, which voters overwhelmingly passed in 2017, that would pay for transportation improvement programs.

The Stakes: Proposition 6 would eliminate approximately $3.3 billion per year specifically earmarked to repair or replace unsafe roads, bridges and overpasses.  It would also eliminate an additional $1.7 billion per year for projects that will improve alternative transportation methods, such as public transportation and active transportation.  This includes $100 million per year dedicated to build safer bike paths and crosswalks to incentivize active transportation.

Our recommendations: Cast your ballot to protect environmental health and public safety.  Vote NO.


View more info about California Ballot Propositions:

http://quickguidetoprops.sos.ca.gov/propositions/2018-11-06

Download our Voter Guide 2018



Measure W is a water-quality funding measure on the November 6, 2018 ballot in Los Angeles County. Heal the Bay encourages you to VOTE YES ON W. Help us spread the word: Take part in an upcoming Measure W event -and- get the facts about this modest parcel tax that would increase our region’s local water supply upon voter approval.

L.A. has a once-in-a-generation chance on November 6, 2018 to capture, clean and save up to 100 billion gallons of rain each year — enough water to meet the needs of more than 3 million Angelenos annually.

Let’s not waste water. Let’s not waste this opportunity to secure our water future. Join a phone bank and see our Action Alert to encourage your social circles to VOTE YES ON W.

 

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Get informed:

Frequently asked questions about Measure W:

Q: Why does L.A. County need the Safe, Clean Water Program?
We live in a water-scarce area. Forces outside of our control can threaten our local water resources, including lakes, rivers and beaches. L.A. County residents rely heavily on imported water – as much as two-thirds of our water is imported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Owens River, Arizona, and the Colorado River – hundreds of miles away.

Climate change is causing more and more extreme weather conditions, making these remote sources more unreliable. The impacts of the recent five year drought were widely felt here.

Rainfall is an essential, local source of L.A.’s water. Rain runs through local rivers, creeks
and streams and can be absorbed into the ground, replenishing our local groundwater supply. However, because so much of our region is paved over, when we do experience heavy rain, too much of that precious water is lost to the ocean before we can capture and clean it for use.

Our local water resources are also threatened by contaminants and pollution as
stormwater runs over streets and over paved areas into our rivers, creeks and streams. Pollution flows onto our beaches and into the ocean, posing a risk to public health risk and marine life.

Q: Is clean water normally scarce in the L.A. region or did the recent drought
cause a water shortage?
Even in years with normal rainfall, L.A. County is a water-scarce region. The recent five year drought put even more stress on our local water resources and made our regular situation dramatically worse. As climate change causes more weather extremes like the drought, we need to take significant steps now to protect and improve our local water resources.

Q: I know the drought was seriously harmful for our local water supply, but
didn’t the heavy rains last winter make up for it?
Unfortunately, no. When we do experience heavy rains, like this past winter, our existing stormwater system can only capture a fraction of that rainfall. Each year, L.A. County loses over 100 billion gallons of water – enough to meet the needs of more than 3 million people annually.

 

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In addition to missing the opportunity to capture, clean and save more water, stormwater runoff picks up toxins from parking lots, streets and other developed areas and carries them into our rivers, lakes, streams and eventually our ocean. As extreme weather conditions become the new normal, we need a system that can capture more local rainfall, and clean and save it for future use.

Q: Do we capture and store rain already when we experience storms? How
much rainwater can we capture and store now?
Right now, L.A. County captures and stores enough rain each year to meet the needs of
approximately 1 million locals – about 10 percent of our county’s population.

Existing dams in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains capture rainfall and stormwater that is conveyed to a network of “spreading grounds” – shallow and deep basins that have a sandy, gravelly, and/or cobbled bottom that allows water to pass into the ground, naturally filtering it along the way. The spreading grounds work in conjunction with the dams to capture as much water as possible to minimize the amount that flows to the ocean. Eventually, this water gets pumped into a water treatment and distribution system for us to use.

Unfortunately, our current system can’t capture all the rainfall we get. A major opportunity for a more reliable local water supply is capturing more rainfall, which we can store underground, clean, and re-use.

Q: How much more water could we be saving for our region?
With the Measure W investment, we could as much as triple the amount of rain we capture, preserving enough water to meet the needs of nearly 1/3 of Los Angeles County community, ensuring our region can see benefits from erratic and intense rain events.

Q: What funding exists for these important projects?
While some types of water supply projects are supported by reliable revenue, like regular rates, there is no dedicated funding source for stormwater projects.

Q: Can we count on the federal government to protect our beaches and water resources?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Clean Water Act have
historically been key in establishing stringent water quality standards; however, they provide minimal funding. Today, it’s more important than ever for our County leadership to take action to improve local water resources for L.A. County residents.

Q: How is L.A. County helping to solve these challenges?
There are smart solutions to help address the challenges we face when it comes to protecting and improving our local water resources, our beaches, rivers, creeks andstreams. L.A. County and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District have developed a program – the Safe, Clean Water Program – based on modern science, technology and nature-based solutions to:

  • Keep toxins and trash from washing into local lakes, rivers, streams, beaches and the ocean
  • Take advantage of less regular, more intense rainstorms in order to save more rainfall and clean it for use, which would mitigate the impact of drought and also protect public health
  • Increase community protections against extreme weather patterns and climate change while adding natural areas, shade and green space to enjoy

Q: What would the L.A. County Safe, Clean Water Program do?
If we are able to get out the vote and pass Measure W in L.S. County this November, the Safe, Clean Water Program would fund stormwater capture projects and programs that improve water quality; increase water supply; and invest in communities by developing a skilled local work force, greening schools, parks and wetlands, and increasing public access to natural areas like rivers, lakes, and streams.The Program would fund the construction and maintenance of projects that:

  • Protect public health by cleaning stormwater pollution and contamination
  • Safeguard marine and other wildlife from trash and toxins in stormwater runoff
  • Mitigate severe drought impacts by increasing local water supply
  • Update our local water infrastructure to capture and treat stormwater
  • Help cities meet their Clean Water Act obligation to clean stormwater

The program would prioritize projects that use nature-based solutions to capture, clean, and conserve stormwater, which can beautify communities while improving our resilience against extreme weather patterns of drought and heavy storms.

Q: What types of projects would the Safe, Clean Water Program Fund?
The Safe, Clean Water Program would fund a suite of project types that capture, clean, and conserve stormwater, from regional projects that benefit entire watersheds, to small local projects in communities. Some example project types include large wetland projects, enhancement of spreading grounds to capture water, water infiltration galleries under parks or other open space, or other “low impact development” that uses greening to capture and treat stormwater.

The best way to capture more water is to rely on natural areas, like streambeds, grassy parks, grassy fields at schools and other non-paved areas. These areas absorb rain naturally and refill our underground reserves.

One of the most exciting parts of the Safe, Clean Water Program is that the projects would use this strategy to not only capture more rain, but to also increase shade, parkland and natural areas for people and wildlife in our area in the process. See conceptual examples of projects that the Safe, Clean Water Program may fund.

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program fund any programs?
Yes! In addition to projects on the ground, the Safe, Clean Water Program would also
fund a variety of educational and capacity-building programs for the region, which may include: local workforce job training; curriculum for schools; and public education on stormwater.

Q: How would the Safe, Clean Water Program be funded, and what would it cost me?
The L.A. County Department of Public Works has analyzed costs and funding
mechanisms to support critical rainwater capture and water quality projects in our region, and is proposing that the L.A. County Flood Control District levy a special parcel tax based on impermeable surface area (paved or built areas where water cannot infiltrate, and instead runs off as stormwater).

The modest tax would be levied on private properties in cities and unincorporated areas located within the L.A. County Flood Control District. The ultimate cost of the tax per parcel would be based on total area of impermeable surface on each property. An appeals process would be available for any properties that believe their tax amount has been incorrectly calculated. Currently under discussion are options for crediting those who are already capturing stormwater, and incentivizing others who want to do more. Calculate your estimated parcel tax.

Q: How much money would the Safe, Clean Water Program raise, and how
would the money be spent?
The Safe, Clean Water Program would aim to raise about $300 million per year to
implement needed stormwater capture projects. 90% of the total revenues collected for
the Safe Clean Water Program – currently aimed to be roughly $270 million – would be
available as a funding source to municipalities and communities.

All tax revenues generated for the Safe, Clean Water Program would be allocated as
follows:

  • 40% to a Municipal Program that would return funds directly to cities and
    municipalities for projects that improve water quality and provide additional
    benefits
  • 50% to a Regional Program that would fund watershed-based projects with
    regional benefits including increased water supply and stormwater pollution
    reduction
  • 10% to a District Program for local workforce training, development and
    implementation of educational programs, and for overall Program administration

Q: What is the Municipal Program, and what would it fund?
40% of revenues from the Safe, Clean Water Program would be returned directly to cities and unincorporated areas in the L.A. County Flood Control District proportionate to what each municipality is contributing toward the Program. Projects would be required to at least have a water quality benefit, and are encouraged to have additional benefits, including greening of schools, creation of parks and wetlands, or increased water supply.

The intent of the Municipal Program is to provide flexibility and local control so that funds can go toward those projects and programs each local government thinks best address local stormwater challenges and opportunities. Notably, cities and municipalities can use up to 30% of their local return revenues to pay for operations and maintenance of projects that existed prior to the commencement of the Safe, Clean Water Program, and related activities.

Q: What is the Regional Program, and what would it fund?
50% of revenues from the Safe, Clean Water Program would fund watershed-based
projects that provide regional benefits, including stormwater pollution reduction,
increased water supply, and investments in communities on the ground.

The majority of funding for the Regional Program would go toward regional and small scale capital improvement projects – new infrastructure. A portion of these funds would be made available for scientific studies and technical assistance.

The Regional Program funds would be distributed to 9 identified “Watershed Areas” in
the L.A. County Flood Control District in proportion to the revenue collected in that area. The Program would include provisions ensuring that investments are made in underserved and low-income areas for the implementation of projects that would provide clean water benefits for all.

 

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Q: What is the District Program, and what would it fund?
10% of revenues from the Safe, Clean Water Program would fund: coordination of
stormwater education and capacity-building programs; provision of regional leadership and coordination for water quality planning and modeling; implementation of multi-benefit projects; and overall administration of the Safe, Clean Water Program.

Q: Who would decide how to spend Safe, Clean Water funds?
Municipal, Regional, and District funds will be administered differently, as follows:

  • Municipal Program: Each city and unincorporated area in the L.A. County Flood Control District would have control to allocate funds returned to them in the manner that they believe best meets Program goals
  • Regional Program: Stakeholder committees for the 9 identified “Watershed Areas” in the L.A. County Flood Control District would identify projects, and relay them to a regional oversight committee to make a final recommendation for affirmation by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors
  • District Program: The L.A. County Flood Control District would determine how to use these funds to administer programs, studies, and the Program as a whole

Oversight measures, reporting, and auditing procedures would be in place for each of
these programs to ensure that Program funds are being used in the most beneficial ways possible.

Q: Who would be eligible to apply for funding?
The Safe, Clean Water Program has very broad applicant eligibility to increase access to funding. Any individual, group, special district, school, municipality, non-governmental organization (NGO), non-profit organization, community based organization (CBO), public utility, federally recognized Indian tribes, state Indian tribes listed on Native American Heritage Steering Committee’s California Tribal Consultation List, mutual water company, or other entities that submits a project for consideration would be eligible to receive funding through the Safe, Clean Water Program.

Q: Would schools benefit from the Safe, Clean Water Program?
Yes, schools would be eligible to apply for funding to implement projects. They also
would be valuable partners for developing projects with other entities.
Public school districts would not be taxed under the potential funding measure.

Q: How is the County going to take advantage of other existing funding
sources for this program?
L.A. County and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District are working to identify
funding and opportunities to share costs with other agencies. Several cities in the County are investing limited funds in stormwater capture and re-use plans, and the L.A. County Safe, Clean Water Program would help unify these efforts and maximize resources to support safe, clean local water resources for all L.A. County residents.

Q: Who would oversee the Program and spending?
Oversight mechanisms are critical to ensure that Program funds are being spent
responsibly and that benefits are realized throughout the region over time. Each of the funding recipients within the Municipal, Regional, and District will be required to undergo an independent audit every 5 years.

Q: Is anyone exempt from paying for the Safe, Clean Water Program?
The Program proposes to exempt low-income senior citizens. Public properties, like
public schools, would be constitutionally exempt from the proposed parcel tax.

Q: When will money from the Safe, Clean Water Program be available for projects?
Immediately after the potential voter approval of Measure W, the process for evaluating and soliciting regional projects begins. As part of the Municipal Programs, cities could start receiving funds for local stormwater capture projects and programs as early as Winter 2020.

Q: What are the primary outcomes the Safe, Clean Water Program would likely achieve?
The Safe, Clean Water Program would result in a series of outcomes, including:

  • Meaningful improvements in water quality
  • Meaningful increases in local water supply
  • Community investments, including greening of streets and schools, and improved access to rivers, lakes, and streams
  • Improved collaboration with stakeholders to consider and implement projects and programs that offer the greatest potential for significant impact
  • Tangible benefits in communities throughout the region

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program help our cities comply with current State and federal water quality standards?
Investing in local water quality is a priority for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors wants to ensure that any funds spent through the Safe, Clean Water Program help our area meet standards for clean water, while also addressing other regional priorities, such as adequately protecting the region against impacts of future droughts, improving the resilience of our water system, and delivering tangible benefits to our communities.

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program be better for public health?
Yes. It’s no secret that dirty water from heavy storms results in beach closures following heavy rain in Los Angeles, because of threats to public health. By using smart, nature-based solutions, we could capture more runoff and filter out harmful toxins and pollutants. In the process of capturing and cleaning stormwater, projects in the Safe, Clean Water Program would add more green space, further supporting healthier communities.

Q: How would the Safe, Clean Water Program help low-income and
underserved communities?
Providing benefits to low-income and underserved communities is a priority for the Safe, Clean Water Program. There are many ways the Program will prioritize funding to disadvantaged communities, including: funding available for small-scale or community projects; priority consideration for projects benefitting disadvantaged communities or with strong community support; involvement of stakeholders and community groups in decision-making on funding priorities; funding available for technical assistance and feasibility studies, and funding stormwater education programs.

Through these avenues, the Safe, Clean Water Program hopes to provide equitable access to Program funds, as well as receipt of Program benefits.

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program benefit marine life?
Absolutely. Each year, marine mammals, seabirds, and fish die, either from mistakenly
eating plastic garbage and other harmful contaminants, or ensnaring themselves.

Annually, over 4,000 tons of trash is found on L.A. County beaches. By preventing stormwater runoff from carrying tons of trash and contaminants out to sea, we can better protect marine life.


See our Action Alert: healthebay.org/yesonw

Learn more about Measure W on the November 6, 2018 ballot in Los Angeles County: 



Talia Walsh, Heal the Bay communications associate director, shares this year’s preliminary list of beach trash finds in Los Angeles, California.

Coastal Cleanup Day is an annual community volunteering effort that reveals insights about the nature of ocean pollution. The 2018 Coastal Cleanup Day event in L.A. County brought together 13,400 individuals who removed over 40,000 pounds of ocean-bound trash from the environment in 3 hours. These piles of trash tell a compelling story.

Gleaning early results reported anecdotally by Heal the Bay’s cleanup captains and volunteers, here are this year’s most common — and weirdest — hand-picked beach trash finds in L.A.:

Beach Trash Finds in Emoji:

  1. 🥤 Plastics:  Single-use drink & food containers, Polystyrene, Tiny plastic pieces
  2. 🚬 Smoking-Related:  Cigarette butts, Lighters, Cannabis packaging
  3. ♻️ Recyclables: Glass, Paper, Metal
  4. 💉 Medical and Hygiene:  Syringes, Condoms, Diapers
  5. 💩 Feces:  Humans, Pets, Unknown
  6. 💊 Drugs:  Pipes, Powders, Pills
  7. 🎣 Fishing Gear: Traps, Hooks, Nets
  8. 🚗 Automobile Parts:  Frames, Engines, Tires
  9. 📱 Lost & Found:  Wedding Rings, Watches, Phones
  10. 👟 Shoes:  Sandals, Sneakers, Wedges
  11. 🏄🏻 Broken Boards: Surfboards, Paddleboards, Boogie boards
  12. 💼 Suitcases: Wardrobe change, please!
  13. 🔋 e-Waste: Cords, Parts, Batteries
  14.  🗡️ Weapons: Bullets, Shivs, Knives
  15. 🛴 Electric Scooters: Underwater e-scooter hunt, anyone?

Looking at the above list, it seems we need to rapidly evolve our manner of thinking about product design and usability to combat rising ocean pollution. Here are some ways to start getting involved locally:

Coastal Cleanup Day is one of 735 cleanups Heal the Bay hosts a year. Check out our Marine Debris Database that houses information for 3.5 million pieces of trash collected by Heal the Bay volunteers in Los Angeles County. See the latest water quality updates for your favorite beach by installing our new Beach Report Card app for iOS or Android — and — visit the website at beachreportcard.org for the latest grades.

Check out our next beach cleanup!

The full report for Coastal Cleanup Day will be released in the coming months.

 



As Strawless Summer comes to a close, Heal the Bay would like to thank all of our partners and community advocates for making this campaign possible.

In America, food and drinks are routinely served with a side of plastic.

One coffee comes with a cup, sleeve, lid, stirrer, straw, sugar packet and cream. A breakfast burrito includes a wrap, container, salsa, utensils and bag. But just because it’s always on the menu, doesn’t mean we have to order it.

If you’ve been to one of our beach cleanups in greater Los Angeles, you don’t need crazy stats to shock you – like an estimated 500 million plastic straws being used in the U.S. every day1. You’ve seen our pollution challenges first-hand. In fact, around 40% of the trash found in the environment is beverage-related2, and single-use plastic straws are one of our most commonly found items at cleanups.

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“No straw, thank you”.

This simple statement, echoed by patrons in restaurants, bars, coffee shops and to-go eateries, is the murmur of a movement aimed at combating the single-use plastic convenience craze.

Earlier this year, Heal the Bay joined the straws-upon-request movement and launched the Strawless Summer campaign to raise awareness and reduce unneccessary plastic straw usage in Los Angeles County.

Here are a few highlights:

“Straws Upon Request”

We’ve come to expect plastic straws available at dispensers, tossed on our tables and placed in our drinks without asking for them first. What would happen if we turned the tables? This is what we aimed to address in our “Straws Upon Request” Study.

During Strawless Summer, we partnered with three local Santa Monica establishments (Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner) to pilot a 4-week program aimed at reducing plastic straw distribution. Patrons wouldn’t be given straws by waitstaff unless they asked for them, in the same way customers must ask for glasses of water during the drought.

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Did people totally freak out? No. Was it easy to implement? Yes. Did it earn the businesses major goodwill with some locals? Yep, it most certainly did.

If patrons asked for straws (one restaurant said this happened about half the time), the waitstaff explained their absence from the experience was part of a local effort to be more green. Then, the restaurant offered paper or plastic straws. If folks needed a plastic straw, they could have access to one. But for folks who didn’t need or want them, the single-use plastic straw was absent from the table.

“We chose to participate in a Strawless Summer because it is great for the environment and the Bay. We are a locals restaurant and have a huge locals following a lot of whom spend a good amount of time in the Bay [and] ocean,” said one restaurant manager who participated in the study.

See more local establishments who pledged to go straws upon request during Strawless Summer.

MonSTRAWsity Hits Home

Here’s a frightening truth: the average American family uses 1,752 straws in a year3. To visualize this fact, we collected plastic straws at our coastline cleanups and pieced together the MonSTRAWsity, whose suit is made out of… 1,752 straws. The MonSTRAWsity spent the summer wreaking havoc on the Santa Monica Pier near the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, in the South Bay and all over Los Angeles. By the end of Summer, the MonSTRAWsity was even surfing the airwaves.

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The Sipping Point

It’s estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by weight. Another study shows microscopic plastic fibers are being detected in 83% of drinking water worldwide and a whopping 94% of U.S. tap water4. Microplastics are even showing up in table salt, according to new research.

Heal the Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand, Adopt-a-Beach and Suits on the Sand cleanup volunteers together have collected close to 13,000 plastic straws and stirrers5 from L.A. County beaches in 2017 alone.

Local inaction is our own worst enemy; however, on the flip side, local action is our best opportunity. Heal the Bay will continue to work with businesses, environmental partners and local municipalities to curb the proliferation of single-use plastic pollution, including advancing safe alternatives to single-use plastic straws and only providing straws upon request.

L.A. doesn’t have to suck. Let’s rethink the drink and stop the alarming plastic pollution trends from continuing to increase.

Learn more about the benefits of skipping the straw at LASucks.org

Looking for something fun to share? Download this amazing poster below created by illustrator Daniela Garreton – please make sure to give her credit for this masterpiece. (Download).

Our Strawless Summer 2017 campaign would not be possible without these local water warriors: Thank you to Mick and the team at ZehnerGroup, Susan Lang (creator of the MonSTRAWsity and Heal the Bay volunteer extraordinaire), Andrea Maguire and the STRAWS documentary team, SoHo House Malibu, All At Once, Jack Johnson and the Ohana Foundation, Lonely Whale Foundation, 5 Gyres Institute, Klean Kanteen, Simone Boyce and KTLA 5, and all the awesome local businesses who pledged to go Strawless or “Straws Upon Request”, we salute you!

Special shout outs to these local businesses for their participation in Strawless Summer:

Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner, Bareburger Organic, Laurel Tavern, Hermosa Beach Fish Shop, Beckers Bakery & Deli, Brother’s BurritosTallulas and Watermans Safehouse

Sources:
1. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm
2. Plastics BAN List. Publication. 5 Gyres, Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation, USTREAM. 2016. http://d3583ivmhhw2le.cloudfront.net/images/uploads/publications/PlasticsBANList2016.pdf
3. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm
4. “New Research Shows Plastic Fibers in Drinking Water”. Plastic Pollution Coalition. (published 9/6/2017) http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2017/9/6/microfibers-the-plastic-inside-us
5. Heal the Bay’s Marine Debris Database. (data pulled from 1/1/2017-9/21/2017) http://sites.healthebay.org/MarineDebris/MDDB/



Spending time with some exceptional students at the 28th annual Coastal Cleanup Day serves as a real pick-me-up for Communications Director Matthew King.

After 10 years at Heal the Bay, I’ve become a bit jaded about our cleanups. I see the same mounds of trash every time I head to a site – cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, fast-food wrappers, you name it.

In the time I’ve worked here, our cleanup volunteers have removed more than 2.6 million items of man-made debris from L.A. County shorelines. That astounding figure stirs mixed emotions. It’s saddening to realize that we still treat our natural places as trash dumps, but it’s also reassuring to know so many Angelenos still care enough to donate a Saturday morning to protect what they love.

Coastal Cleanup Day 2017 was no different. Under pleasantly overcast skies, volunteers stretching from Compton to Malibu collected roughly 23,000 pounds of trash in just under three hours. To put that in perspective, that’s about the weight of two enormous T. Rex dinosaurs!

Beyond the usual suspects, we found a few oddball items this year – a drone that must have crash landed underneath the Redondo Pier, a whole set of unopened men’s dress shirts resting forlornly on the sand at Will Rogers State Beach, and a jock-strap and cup in Palos Verdes. (Props to whoever had the nerve to pick it up!)

It’s also revealing to see what we didn’t find. A veteran site captain at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve was astounded how few plastic bags they found at this L.A. River location, which has historically been visibly choked with plastic bags. It’s a good sign that the recently passed state ban is working!

In all, more than 9,600 volunteers joined us at 61 sites across the County today. We always mobilize a cross-section of greater L.A, both the famous and not-so-famous. I’ve met professional surfers, NBA centers, All-Star outfielders and Oscar-winning actors. But it’s usually the everyday folks like you and me who have interesting stories to tell.

Take the inspiring group of six students from Bell Gardens High School who served as site captains for our beach cleanup in Playa del Rey today, under the caring guidance of teacher Patty Jimenez.  The youth brigade — Angel Diaz, Christopher Linares, Heidi Lara, Kimberly Gonzalez, Otzara Villalobos and Vanexi Jaramillo — mobilized 342 volunteers, who collected 235 pounds of ocean-bound debris.

I first met four of these kids last Wednesday morning at a KTLA Channel 5 news shoot to promote today’s cleanup. They had all arisen at 3 a.m., clambered into Patty’s sedan and traveled 23 miles in darkness to do a series of live interviews at the Del Rey Lagoon. With the bright lights of the camera staring them down as dawn broke, they spoke passionately and endearingly on live TV about their desire to curb cigarette-related pollution. Patty beamed at each of her charges, nodding as they offered simple but powerful testimony.

But what really touched me that chilly morning had come a half hour earlier.  I had approached Patty’s car to give the group a heads-up and to share some media tips. A gaggle of kids sat quietly inside, dressed in their teen uniform of denim, hoodies and Vans tennis shoes.

And then I saw something beautiful that made me well up.

In the cramped back seat, two students scanned textbooks, using their mobile phones to illuminate the pages in the dark. They were doing their math homework — in an unfamiliar neighborhood, hours before their school day would start and hours before most of their peers would even be awake.

I told Patty how moving the sight had been and she shared that that these students’ work ethic and optimism keep her motivated when she faces obstacles at school. She shared that this same group of students played a lead role last month in convincing the Bell Gardens City Council to adopt its first ban on smoking in parks and recreation areas.

The simple scene in the car gave me a moment of hope about the public school system, and Patty’s story gave me hope about the next generation of environmental stewards. This is why I work at Heal the Bay, to help my colleagues create leadership opportunities for students like Patty’s, to connect people from all across our region to their watersheds and to each other.

That to me is the real gift of Coastal Cleanup Day.

You can find more images from the day on our Flickr album and at our Facebook Page (check out the new videos, too).

Thank you to all our site captains, volunteers, partners and staff. We couldn’t have done this without you! And a special thank you to this year’s organizers, sponsors and otherwise remarkable organizations: California Coastal Commission, California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, City of Santa Monica, Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Schuchart/Dow, Union Bank, LAcarGUY, KIND Snacks and REI, as well as our photographers Nicola Buck, Cali Gilbert and Alvin Lam.

If you weren’t able to join us today, we have many volunteer opportunities throughout the year – out in the field, in our offices, or at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Explore the various options and time commitments here.



Update (9/10/17): Bacteria levels remain very high in Sepulveda Basin. Most sites also exceed regulatory limits in Elysian Valley, although amounts of bacteria are lower than earlier this week. Based on these latest sampling results, we still recommend avoiding water contact with the L.A. River.

Heal the Bay is urging the general public to avoid the waters of the Los Angeles River this weekend because of alarmingly high levels of bacterial pollution.

Our staff scientists collect weekly water quality samples at four sites in the Sepulveda Basin and Elysian Valley, areas of the L.A. River that have become popular for kayaking, fishing and other recreational activities. The levels of bacteria are at the most worrying levels since Heal the Bay began monitoring L.A. River sites in 2015.

The results have a special urgency this weekend, as the fourth annual L.A. Boat Race is scheduled to take place at the Glendale Narrows (Elysian Valley). Dozens of kayakers are expected for the boat pageant and parade.

Samples taken on Sept. 6 in the Sepulveda Basin by the City of L.A. Sanitation Department showed very high levels of bacteria, well over accepted regulatory and health limits. The poor results are possibly related to runoff from recent thunderstorms and rains. A fish kill in the Balboa Boulevard area of the Basin has also likely degraded water quality. Low-oxygen levels, high turbidity and increased ammonia levels have been cited by city officials as contributing factors to the fish kill.

Additionally, Heal the Bay scientists and other monitoring groups recorded very high levels of bacteria on Sept. 1 and Sept. 4 in the Elysian Valley area. Rainstorms and poor upstream water quality likely led to the spike in such bacteria levels (the presence of which indicate an elevated risk for ear infections, respiratory illnesses and gastrointestinal illnesses for people who come in contact with the water).

Heal the Bay urges people to stay out of the water and to delay any planned kayaking trips until water quality results show marked improvement. Our staff scientists expect to get updated bacteria counts this weekend (please check our Twitter and Facebook pages on Sunday as we’ll be posting the results).

Unlike at the beach, there is not yet an official protocol for authorities to alert the general public or kayak outfitters when potentially dangerous levels of bacterial pollution are found at popular recreation zones at the L.A. River. The only way for the general public to know about potential threats to their health is to access water quality data on Heal the Bay’s River Report Card, which is updated weekly.

Heal the Bay looks forward to working with the City of Los Angeles and the L.A. County Department of Public Health to resolve jurisdictional conflicts about health oversight of the L.A. River. This effort should hopefully lead to formal protocol for proactively warning kayak operators and the general public as soon as they know bacteria levels exceed safety thresholds.

Every year thousands of people recreate in the L.A. River. In 2014, approximately 6,000 people utilized the recreation zones, according to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

The L.A. River has been designated by state regulators as a bacteria-impaired waterbody. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has identified several conduits of bacteria to recreational zones along the river: urban runoff, leaks and flows from wastewater collection systems, illicit connections and failing septic systems. Bacteria sources include pets, horses and human waste.

Experiencing the L.A. River firsthand is an undeniable way to make a connection to a river that needs supporters and advocates; many Heal the Bay staff members and volunteers have kayaked the L.A. River over the years and will continue to do so. We also believe that the public has a right to know what the water quality of the river is and then to make an informed decision about how they want to experience the river.

If you are thinking about getting out on the water, please check out our FAQ about recreation and water quality issues along the L.A. River.



As California’s legislative session nears its end, an important water bill passed out of the Assembly last Thursday, giving us hope that cities will soon find it easier to finance much-needed stormwater projects. SB 231, led by state Sen. Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), is now headed to the Governor’s desk. We believe it’s a great step to increase runoff capture, cleansing and reuse throughout the state.

What is SB 231?
SB 231 gives cities, counties and local water agencies broader authority to finance local projects to put stormwater to use. Cities currently charge residents for infrastructure like sewage treatment, but have been hamstrung by rules that prevent them from charging property owners for stormwater services. Cities need public funding measures to build enhanced runoff infrastructure that can augment local water supply while protecting against flooding. We need to treat stormwater as a resource instead of a nuisance.

What problem does it solve?
California suffers from an outdated water management system that has created serious long-term challenges that are intensified during times of drought and heavy rains. For example, an average 1-inch storm in Los Angeles County sends over 10 billion gallons of runoff to the Pacific Ocean, along with the pollutants picked up and carried with it. This wasteful and environmentally harmful practice could be improved by capturing, cleansing and reusing that stormwater. However, one of the biggest barriers to plumbing our cities has been confusion around the tools local government can use to finance new or updated infrastructure to put runoff to use. SB 231 helps address this problem by clarifying the definition of sewer service so that projects designed to capture and clean stormwater can be more easily financed, consistent with how municipalities support water, sewer and trash services.

I care about clean water, but what other benefits does it provide?
SB 231 will provide economic benefits by creating jobs through local infrastructure investments and upgrades. It will shield our communities from costly and devastating flood damage, and it would also help cities and counties invest in a more water-resilient future in the face of climate change – cleaning stormwater to help build local water supplies and reducing reliance on costly and uncertain imported water.

What will this allow greater L.A. to do?
Each day roughly 10 million gallons of water flows uselessly from the urban Los Angeles County area out to sea, even as we desperately need water. Up to 630,000 acre feet of water per year could be generated by better stormwater capture and reuse in the state. That volume is roughly equal to the amount of water used by the entire City of Los Angeles annually. Properly managing runoff and water supply is a critical responsibility of local government, and in L.A. it’s required by regulations set by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. If SB 231 is signed into law, it will provide L.A. region municipalities more options for funding these critical stormwater service investments, allowing us to modernize the way water is managed in the region.

What happens next?
SB 231 is now headed to the Governor’s desk. Gov. Brown has until Oct. 15 to sign the bill into law or reject it with a veto.

Follow @OurWaterLA to stay up to date with the latest news about building a more water-resilient region. You can also learn more and get involved at ourwaterla.org, a website created by a coalition of leading community groups including Heal the Bay.



Most people view Labor Day weekend as the last celebration of summer and a final opportunity to enjoy a relaxing water adventure either at the beach or the river. A last hurrah before settling into the fall season.  With that in mind, now is a good time to deliver a friendly reminder about water quality when heading to your favorite beach or stream.

First – let’s remember the basic safety tips.

These are some general rules to follow to lower your risk of getting sick when:

Going to the beach

  • Swim at least 100 yards from piers and flowing storm drains.
  • Because of poor circulation, water quality at enclosed beaches and harbors is often poorer than at open beaches.
  • Wait at least 3 days after a rainstorm before diving into the water (and wait at least 5 days before swimming at beaches near storm drains).

Going to the river

  • Do not drink the water.
  • After water contact, rinse off with soap and water.
  • Be aware of your swimming conditions (funny smells, homeless encampments, nearby drainages, posted signs) before entering the water.

Second – knowledge is power.

Heal the Bay has two great, if not awesome, sources of water quality information regardless of whether you are going to the beach or the river. In addition to practicing safe swimming, water enthusiasts should visit Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card to get the latest information on all California beach conditions. (We publish the Beach Report Card on a weekly basis for the whole year, so can stay informed if you plan on swimming in the ocean beyond Labor Day Weekend.)

If you plan to visit a swimming hole in Los Angeles County this coming weekend, then see our River Report Card to see updated water quality information about these swimming holes.

Our motto has always been, and always will be: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!



Summer is coming to an end, but our #StrawlessSummer Campaign is a pledge you can keep all year round.

We are thrilled to be joined by local businesses like Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner, Bareburger Organic, Laurel Tavern, Hermosa Beach Fish Shop, Beckers Bakery & Deli, Brother’s BurritosTallulas and Watermans Safehouse for our “Straws-Upon-Request” campaign. These businesses are leading the way to change consumer behavior across our region.

It’s estimated that Americans use roughly 500 million plastic straws daily – that’s enough to fill up 125 school buses and to wrap around the planet 2.5 times. Because they aren’t readily recyclable, most plastic straws end up in landfills, and the rest wind up polluting the environment. Plastic pollution is a major problem, in fact it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea by mass than fish. Skipping the straw is an easy way to make a big difference.

L.A. sucks at times, but we don’t have to! We just launched our new campaign microsite (thanks ZEHNERGROUP). You can take the pledge to go strawless, catch up on the latest straw-related news, share with your friends and find out which local restaurants and bars are going straws-upon-request. If you don’t need a plastic straw, don’t use one! Learn more at lasucks.org.



Participating in our biggest volunteer event is guaranteed to lift your spirits, writes aquarium staffer and veteran organizer Randi Parent.

This will be my 13th year as a Heal the Bay staff member rolling up my sleeves to organize our biggest volunteer event of the year — Coastal Cleanup Day — on Saturday Sept. 16. (I should be logging No. 14, but taking my daughter to college was the priority a few years back.)

It’s a day of big numbers: half a million people around the globe, volunteering to tidy up their favorite park, stream, lake or shoreline. Millions of pounds of debris picked up, documented, bagged and disposed of, all within a few hours on a Saturday morning by folks in 112 countries. Heal the Bay has historically organized coastal and inland sites in L.A. County, welcoming up to 20,000 volunteers spread out at cleanup locations from Malibu to Compton.

I usually help mobilize our biggest site, next to the Santa Monica Pier, where we’ve sent more than 2,000 people out along the beach. But I’ve also assisted at much smaller inland cleanups, where the power of a few community groups spreading out along a concrete-lined riverbed makes everyone feel mighty, as they weigh their garbage haul at the end of the morning.

For this year’s event – which runs from 9 a.m. to noon – it’s exciting to hear we’ll be including several locations around the county where active wetlands restoration is in progress.

Volunteers are removing invasive plants that choke waterways and they’re removing the trash that accumulates in the overgrowth too – a win-win for the native plants and animals that depend on these riparian habitats for their survival. These sites – LAX Dunes and Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Playa del Rey, Medea Creek in Agoura Hills and Alta Vicente Reserve in Rancho Palos Verde — all offer an opportunity to become involved with an ongoing restoration project.

But no matter the size, scope or location of the cleanup, there’s been one constant in my 13 Coastal Cleanup Days with Heal the Bay: the genuine feeling of satisfaction and connection I receive after spending a morning with community members, school groups, families and individuals who really care. In a world full of dysfunction and strife, we gather for a simple task that makes a world of difference. On one Saturday in September, we can all make a small corner of this planet that much cleaner and healthier. It may sound corny, but it’s a very powerful moment.

I look forward to meeting you at the Pier cleanup site this year. But there are many more to choose from! Please register today.