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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Los Angeles

A note from Heal the Bay President & CEO, Dr. Shelley Luce

SoCalGas has supported Heal the Bay’s programs since 1991. For nearly 30 years they have helped to fund our student curriculum, beach cleanup efforts, and bring students to our aquarium.

It’s never been a problem before. We rely on the philanthropy of companies and individuals to uphold our mission: protect California’s coasts and watersheds, and make them safe, healthy, and clean. We have never allowed any corporate contributor to influence our advocacy, and we never will.

However, after great consideration and consultation with my team, I have made the difficult decision to stop accepting contributions from SoCalGas from this point forward.

Turning down funding is never an easy decision, but it is a particularly difficult time for me to make this announcement. As President of an organization that employs close to 40 people in a year when many of us are forced to tighten our belts, it was not easy, but I know that it is the right thing to do.

In order to mitigate climate change, we must transition to renewable energy systems across the board – including the electricity, transportation, residential and industrial sectors, and we must do so swiftly. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, extreme heat, wildfires, and drought will all be more severe unless we drastically reduce our production and consumption of natural gas and, at the same time, prioritize and invest in nature-based projects that sequester carbon and cool our cities. Such projects include living streets, wetland restoration, and the creation of parks that capture and treat stormwater. The intentional obstruction of these goals will have severe consequences, which will be most devastating to frontline communities locally and around the world. We demand a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels now.

Several recent investigations by the Los Angeles Times have brought to light that SoCalGas is not a good-faith partner in our critical effort to enact sensible climate systems in California. They have sued the state of California to obstruct climate policy and used ratepayer money to evade safety protocols and lobby for the expansion of gas consumption.

This behavior has made it clear that SoCalGas will not take the actions necessary to phase down the consumption and distribution of gas unless they are compelled to do so. It is up to us as an environmental advocacy group to hold them and our public officials accountable so that we continue our progress towards meeting our climate goals. That is why we joined the Los Angeles City Council meeting this morning, to give public comment in support of Councilmembers Bonin, Lee and Koretz in their call for a feasibility study to explore options for the closure of the Playa Del Rey Gas Storage Facility.

We support the feasibility study for three reasons:

  1. Its long-term existence stands counter to the urgent need to address the Climate Crisis.
  2. The Gas Storage Facility is located in a densely-populated area of our city, making it a health and safety risk to the communities of Playa Del Rey, Westchester, Marina Del Rey, Playa Vista and beyond.
  3. It abuts the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, affecting native species and endangered wildlife.

The Playa Del Rey facility stores gas that is used by the Chevron refinery and coastal power plants that deliver electricity to homes across the LA area. It is up to all of us to reflect on our personal consumption habits and do everything in our power to reduce our impact. It is up to our political leaders to regulate the fossil fuel industry and guide us to a renewable-powered, climate-stabilized future.

We would like to thank SoCalGas for their decades of support and ask that they change course to meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis.

Shelley Luce

 

 

 



Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch and Outreach Associate, Heather Leigh Curtis, breaks down the science behind pollution bioaccumulation in marine ecosystems, and how local anglers can safely consume fish.

The first time that I was told that the skin of fish caught near Los Angeles could be toxic to eat, the scientist in me was intrigued. Because it is said that fish’s skin can become a “reservoir for toxins,” I wondered if that were additionally true for human skin and I wanted to know what biological mechanisms allowed fish skin to perform this weird function. Perhaps toxins in the water absorb and accumulate in the fish skin? Let’s dive in and investigate. 

The toxins in question here are various molecules known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which include the chemicals (DDT) and (PCBs)DDT is an industrial pesticide, and is no longer allowed in the US. PCBs can be found in today’s electrical equipment, but used to be very common and found in insulation, coolants, adhesives, ink, pesticides, and other products. POPs are known for their long-term resistance to decomposition, also known as persistence, as well as their organic nature that allows them to accumulate in the bodies of plants and animals.  

There are many well-documented health and cultural benefits for eating fish, and POPs do not prevent locallycaught fish from being beneficial, but their presence means that local anglers need to be mindful with the types of fish they eat and how they prepare them. Los Angeles is home to many subsistence anglers who rely on fishing for their main source of protein, and these communities are the most vulnerable to POPs.  

It is unfair to ask anglers to change their behavior to protect themselves from pollution that they had no part in creating, and this is a direct example of an environmental justice issue. Where pollution goes is a calculated decision corporations and lawmakers make, and those decision-makers are fully aware of the impacts of those decisions. While POPs are a global concern, it is clear that the majority of public health impacts from this pollution, including cancer and reproductive disorders, are disproportionately experienced by frontline communitieswhich are comprised largely of BIPOC and people of lower socio-economic status.

So, how did these pollutants get in the environment in the first place? 

POPs are a result of local contamination of LA’s sediment, soil, and groundwater. The largest example in LCounty was caused by the Montrose Chemical Corporation, near Torrance. From the 1940s to the 1970s, this factory manufactured DDT and disposed of its waste, including DDT and PCBs, into the sewer system for 28 years, which at the time, released directly into the ocean without treatment. Hundreds of tons of DDT and PCBs were released into the ocean off the Palos Verdes PeninsulaWhile the manufacturing and untreated disposal of DDT has been banned in the United States, the molecule itself still persists in our local water and seafood.  

Now, back to the question about fish skin. POPs are a particular threat in fish because marine and freshwater ecosystems are significant reservoirs for persistent pollutants. POPs are brought to aquatic locations by runoff, wind, or other means, and they stay in those ecosystems sequestered in organic sediments. These sediments are sometimes known as “sinks” because they can harbor POPs for hundreds of years.

These POPs are brought into the food chain by bottom feeding fish. Pollutants accumulate up the food chain, concentrating to levels that can be thousands of times higher than in the water around themotherwise known as bioaccumulationIn addition, plastic pollution is widespread, and further exacerbates the issue. If microplastics are present in the water, POPs adhere to the plastic, concentrate further, and lead to the risk of even higher concentrations of POPs entering the food chain. 

Fish mainly absorb POPs from sediment. Bottom feeding fish stir up sediment to find food, absorbing POPs through their food and digestive tracts as well as their gillsOnce inside the body, POPs dissolve into the fish’s fat for long-term storage. Normal fat stores in fish (and in humans) are located in the liver and the subcutaneous fat, which is the layer of fat directly under the skin. That said, it’s not technically the skin of the fish that stores the pollutants, but the layer of fat just below the skin. When eating potentially contaminated fish, removing the fish skin also removes this layer of fat where the POPs are stored. And that’s why it is recommended to skin certain types of fish caught in LA before eating. 

How does this relate to Heal the Bay? 

Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program educates pier and shore anglers in Los Angeles and Orange County about the risks of consuming fish contaminated with DDT and PCBs. Created in 2003, the program is a component of the Fish Contamination Education Collaboration (FCEC) and managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program. 

What can we do about this pollution? 

Los Angeles is taking measures to reduce pollution. It’s nearly impossible to remove POPs from our environment and wildlife, so the goal is to stop any more from entering. The next storm drain permit, also known as the municipal sperate storm sewer system (MS4) permit, could be strong enough to enforce and reduce local pollution via the regulation of industrial discharge of wastewater into storm drains. A recent supreme court decision  reinforced MS4 permit regulatory standards. 

Individually, the best first step is to educate yourself on which fish are safe to catch and eat   in Los Angeles and how to prepare them safely. To advoate for clean water, you can contact your local water board and share your support for a simple, transparent, measurable, and enforceable MS4 permit that reduces the amount of new pollutants that enter our environment. Read our recent blog on the MS4 permit to learn more and sign up to stay updated on MS4 calls to action.  


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La primera vez que me dijeron que la piel de ciertos peces capturados cerca de Los Ángeles era tóxica para comer, me intrigó. Nunca había escuchado que la piel humana desempeñara un papel de “depósito de toxinas”, y me preguntaba qué propiedades especiales tenía la piel del pescado que le permitían albergar estas toxinas. Mi primer pensamiento fue que quizás las toxinas en el agua absorbidas a traves de la piel se acumulan allí. Al investigar más sobre el tema, esa no fue la respuesta que encontré.

Las toxinas en cuestión aquí son varias moléculas conocidas como contaminantes orgánicos persistentes (COP), que incluyen los químicos (DDT) y (PCB). Los COP son conocidos por su resistencia a la descomposición a largo plazo, también conocida como persistencia, así como por su naturaleza orgánica que les permite acumularse en los cuerpos de plantas y animales.

Hay muchos beneficios culturales y de salud bien documentados para comer pescado y los COP no impiden que los peces capturados localmente sean beneficiosos, pero su presencia significa que los pescadores deben tener en cuenta los tipos de pescado que comen y los métodos de preparación.

Los Ángeles es el hogar de muchos pescadores de subsistencia que dependen de la pesca como fuente principal de proteínas, y estas poblaciones son las más vulnerables a los COP. Estas preocupaciones con las fuentes locales de alimentos capturados en el medio silvestre provienen de la contaminación local de los sedimentos, suelos y aguas subterráneas de Los Ángeles.

El mayor ejemplo de contaminación por COP en el condado de Los Ángeles fue causado por la compañía Montrose Chemical cerca de Torrance. Esta fábrica elaboró DDT y eliminó sus desechos, incluidos DDT y PCB, en el sistema de alcantarillado durante 28 años, que en ese momento se liberaron directamente al océano sin tratamiento. Más de cien toneladas de DDT y once toneladas de PCB fueron liberadas en el océano frente a la península de Palos Verdes. La fabricación y  uso doméstico del DDT se prohibieron en los Estados Unidos en 1972, sin embargo, la molécula misma persiste en nuestra area y en los mariscos hasta el día de hoy.

El Programa Educacional Pesquero (AOP, por sus siglas en inglés) de Heal the Bay educa a los pescadores de muelles y costa en el Condado de Los Ángeles y Condado de Orange, sobre los riesgos de consumir pescados contaminados con DDT y PCB. Creado en el 2003, AOP es un componente del Programa Educacional sobre la Contaminación de Peces (FCEC, por sus siglas en inés) y administrado por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de los Estados Unidos (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés) como parte de un programa de educación pública y divulgación.

Realmente no es justo pedirles a los pescadores o cualquier persona que cambien su comportamiento de esta manera, pero muy pocos aspectos de la contaminación son justas. Si bien los COP son una preocupación mundial, está claro que la mayoría de los impactos de esta contaminación en la salud pública, incluidos el cáncer y los trastornos reproductivos, son desproporcionadamente experimentados por las comunidades de primera línea, que son comunidades compuestas principalmente por personas de color y/o de estatus socioeconómico más bajo.

Ahora, volviendo a la pregunta sobre la piel de pescado. Los COP son una amenaza particular en los peces porque los ecosistemas marinos y los de agua dulce son reservorios importantes de contaminantes persistentes. Los COP son arrastrados a cuerpos acuáticos por escorrentía, viento u otros medios y permanecen en esos ecosistemas secuestrados en los sedimentos orgánicos. Estos sedimentos a veces se conocen como “sumideros” porque pueden albergar COP durante cientos de años, excepto cuando son introducidos en la cadena alimenticia por los peces que se alimentan de los fondos.

Al subir por la cadena alimenticia, estos productos químicos orgánicos se concentran a niveles que pueden ser mucho más altos que el que se encuentra en el agua (también conocida como bioacumulación). Si hay contaminación microplástica en el agua, los COP se adherirán al plástico, se concentrarán más allá y generarán riesgos de concentraciones mayores de COP que ingresen a la cadena alimenticia.

Los peces absorben principalmente los COP de los sedimentos a través de sus vías digestivas y branquias, y solo en pequeña medida a través de su piel. Una vez dentro del cuerpo, los COP son rápidamente “atrapados” por las grasas, donde se disuelven fácilmente para su almacenamiento a largo plazo. Las reservas normales de grasa en los peces (y en los humanos) se encuentran en el hígado y la grasa subcutánea, que es la capa de grasa directamente debajo de la piel y que desempeña un papel en la regulación de la temperatura. Cuando la grasa se descompone debido al hambre u otros factores, los COP se liberan en el torrente sanguíneo y causan daño.

Dicho esto, no es técnicamente la piel del pez lo que almacena los contaminantes, sino la capa subcutánea de grasa justo debajo de la piel. Al quitar la piel del pescado, se elimina esta capa de grasa donde se almacenan los COP. Curiosamente, estas moléculas se comportan y se almacenan de manera similar una vez que ingresan al cuerpo humano a través de su tracto digestivo.

En caso de que esta información te haga sentir mal, Los Ángeles está tomando medidas para reducir la contaminación. Es casi imposible eliminar los COP de nuestro medio ambiente y vida silvestre, por lo que el objetivo es evitar que ingresen más. Existe la esperanza de que el próximo permiso de drenaje pluvial, también conocido como el permiso municipal de alcantarillado pluvial (MS4, por sus siglas en inglés), sea lo suficientemente fuerte y ejecutable como para reducir la contaminación local mediante la regulación de la descarga industrial de aguas residuales en los desagües pluviales. Afortunadamente, una reciente decisión de la Corte Suprema tomada en abril de 2020 (19) reforzó los estándares regulatorios de los permisos MS4 al decir que aplican a las aguas residuales vertidas en las aguas subterráneas, así como a los desagües pluviales.

¿Como puedes ayudar? Lo mejor que puedes hacer es educarte sobre qué peces son seguros para la pesca,  cuales se pueden comer en Los Ángeles y cómo prepararlos de manera segura. Posiblemente, lo mejor que puedes hacer, es comunicarte con la Junta de Agua local y expresar tu apoyo a un simple, transparente, medible y exigible permiso MS4, para reducir la cantidad de nuevos contaminantes que ingresan a nuestro medio ambiente. Lee nuestro blog reciente sobre el permiso MS4 para aprender más información y regístrate para mantenerte actualizado sobre los llamados de acción del MS4 (22).


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Recent school closures mean many students are not getting the daily education they need. While we all should be practicing physical distancing at this time, we also need to put our brainpower and creative energy to good use and innovate to give students more opportunities to keep learning remotely.

Gotitas del Saber is Heal the Bay’s new interactive science education series, where our team of scientists, experts, and advocates explores the water world and offers fun lessons about the marine environment. Each session is about 1-hour long and includes a live presentation, Q&A, polls, and videos. Activities are generally geared for 3rd – 8th grade students, but all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend!

________

El reciente cierre de las escuelas significa que gran parte de los estudiantes no reciban la educación diaria necesaria. En estos momentos en los que todos debemos practicar el distanciamiento físico es necesario hacer buen uso de toda nuestra energía y capacidad cerebral e innovar para darle a nuestros estudiantes más oportunidades para seguir aprendiendo de manera remota.

Heal the Bay está respondiendo a esta situación con una nueva serie interactiva de educación científica llamada “Gotas de conocimiento” o Knowledge Drops por su nombre en inglés, donde nuestro grupo de científicos, expertos y defensores exploran el mundo acuático y ofrecen divertidas lecciones acerca del entorno marino. Cada lección tiene una duración aproximada de una hora e incluye una presentación en vivo, una sección de preguntas y respuestas, encuestas y videos. Nuestra nueva serie web está pensada para estudiantes del 3° al 8° grado pero ¡personas de todas las edades son bien recibidas y están invitadas a participar!

______

Click to visit our English language “Knowledge Drop” series.

See all recorded Knowledge Drops.

Gotitas del Saber:

PAST EVENTS (LINK TO VIDEOS BELOW)

4/22 – LA HISTORIA DEL DIA DE LA TIERRA 🌍
5/6 – CONOCE EL FLUJO 💦
5/13 – DESAGUES PLUVIALES 🌧
5/20 – PLASTICOS 🥤
5/27 – PESCADO CONTIMINADOS 🎣
6/10 – VIRUS Y CALIDAD DEL AGUA
6/17 –  SITIO SUPERFUND 🆘
6/24 – ACUARIO Y LIMPIEZA COSTERA 🐙
7/1 – ÁREAS MARINAS PROTEGIDAS (MPAs)🛡
7/15 – TOXICIDAD ACUÁTICA
7/22 – LOS CABALLITOS DE MAR Y GARIBALDI 🐴
7/29 – SHARKS AND RAYS / TIBURONES Y MANTARRAYAS 🦈
9/9 – MES DE LA LIMPIEZA COSTERA: ARROYOS DE LAS MONTAÑAS DE SANTA MÓNICA 🌄
9/16 –
MES DE LA LIMPIEZA COSTERA: HEAL THE BAY’S CALIFICACIONES DEL RÍO🚣🏾‍♀️
9/24 – MES DE LA LIMPIEZA COSTERA: MUELLES DE PESCA VISITADOS POR EL EQUIPO DE ANGLER OUTREACH PROGRAM DE HEAL THE BAY 🐟

If you are a teacher with a topic suggestion, please contact us with your idea.


Resources and Videos/Recursos:

All previously-recorded Gotitas Del Saber webinar videos are posted here as an ongoing marine science education repository for you to access. (To view the webinar recordings please visit the ‘gotowebinar’ links below and enter in your contact information. We will only use your email address to update you about upcoming “Gotitas Del Saber” and you can opt out at any time.)

Todas las grabaciones anteriores de “Gotas de conocimiento” (Knowledge Drops) son publicadas aquí de manera continua para tu consulta a modo de archivo para la educación de las ciencias marinas. (Para ver las grabaciones en la página web por favor visita los enlaces “gotowebinar” ubicados más abajo e ingresa tu información. Usaremos tu dirección de correo electrónico para mantenerte informado de las nuevas “Gotas de conocimiento” (Knowledge Drops) y podrás salir cuando lo desees.)

 

Gotitas del SaberLa historia del Día de la Tierra

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4446715700219695361

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberConoce el Flujo

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2622740259256834566

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberDesagues Pluviales

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6033268098610078222

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberPlasticos

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3195564926916837132

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberPescados Contaminados

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/848989410095476225

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberVirus y Calidad del Agua

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/9161552403089257478

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberAquatic Toxicity: Sources and Solutions

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4000079784492577294

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberSitio Superfund

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3636684594553388047

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberAquario y Limpieza Costera

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5657488010514034189

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberÁreas Marinas Protegidas (MPAS)

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6766161868839098128

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberCrustaceans

Webinar grabado:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1116456609554810369

Más información:

 

Gotitas del SaberMicroSafari

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6461401435030243855

 

Gotitas del SaberToxicidad Acuática

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5609503124519119873

 

Gotitas del SaberLos Caballitos De Mar Y Garibaldi

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3450783567349679107

 

Gotitas del SaberTiburones y Mantarrayas 

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1511927852828490255

 

Gotitas del SaberMes de la Limpieza Costera: Arroyos de las Montañas de Santa Mónica

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8526730675111592195

Más información:

Gotitas del SaberMes de la Limpieza Costera: Heal the Bay’s Calificaciones del Río

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8003309264375293707

Más información:

Gotitas del Saber: Mes de la Limpieza Costera: Muelles de pesca visitados por el equipo de Angler Outreach Program de Heal the Bay

Webinar grabado: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/7620905717459421708

Más información:


Activity Guides



Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program Manager, Frankie Orrala, shares the program’s positive impacts and successes from over the last 17 years.

Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program (AOP) is celebrating 17 years! This program is designed to educate pier and shore anglers in Los Angeles and Orange County about the risks of consuming fish contaminated with toxins such as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Created in 2003, AOP is a component of the Fish Contamination Education Collaboration (FCEC) and managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program. Notably, the program also works in association with federal and state agencies as well as local community organizations.

The FCEC was established to address a major contamination site (aka Superfund site) off the coast of Los Angeles, along the Palos Verdes shelf. DDT and PCBs were historically discharged into the ocean near the Palos Verdes Peninsula, pollution which still exists in the sediment today. These toxins can travel through the food chain into fish and potentially have negative impacts on human health if the fish are eaten; certain species of fish and certain areas are more likely to be contaminated.

The goal of the AOP is to educate anglers about this contamination and share which fish should be avoided. During visits to different piers in Southern California, Heal the Bay’s educational team has interacted with diverse fishing communities and outreach is conducted in multiple languages. Heal the Bay is proud to have a team of bilingual staff who have educated Southern California pier anglers in multiple languages, including: Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Khmer and Russian.

Since its inception 17 years ago, Heal the Bay’s AOP team has educated more than 170,000 pier anglers. Along the way, we have heard many stories and learned a lot about the people who frequently fish on our local piers. We appreciate these anglers and the knowledge and experiences they share with us.

Awards Received at the National Level

In 2009, the EPA presented two prestigious awards to the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative. FCEC was recognized for its work to protect the most vulnerable populations in Southern California from the health risks of consuming fish contaminated with DDT and PCBs; the other award was given to Heal the Bay and all FCEC partners in Los Angeles for Achievement in Environmental Justice.

On behalf of the AOP and Heal the Bay, I traveled to Washington D.C.  to receive the distinguished award in recognition of Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement. This award is presented annually to an individual or community group working with a Superfund team for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection.

Heal the Bay was thrilled to be selected to present to the FCEC among other national projects. The recognition was significant as it confirmed Heal the Bay’s work is truly protecting the health of all people, especially communities with economic and social disadvantages.

 

2009 Award Winner: Frankie Orrala of Heal the Bay receiving the Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement and Environmental Justice Achievement Awards

In addition to accepting this award in Washington D.C, in 2009, I traveled to Ecuador in South America, along with scientists from the National Fisheries Institute (Instituto Nacional de Pesca) as well as professors, researchers and students from the University of Guayaquil. We came together to talk about FCEC’s efforts to monitor pollution and educate the public about its effect on human and environmental health.

The international interest our program receives is an honor; the AOP team is busy building on these relationships and with more communities as they are facing similar problems as Southern California.

Continuing to advance environmental justice is a critical objective of our work. Moving forward, Heal the Bay’s AOP program remains committed to educating and protecting chronically underserved populations in the region, many of whom are exposed to higher rates of pollution compared to the general population.

In closing, there are many reasons for the AOP team’s continued success, from our great team members to the communities we work with, to the experts who are providing us with advice. All of it wouldn’t be possible without Heal the Bay’s dedicated supporters and for that we say THANK YOU!


To learn more about our program, visit www.pvsfish.org and if you want to join our bilingual team call us at 310-451-1500 or visit our site at www.healthebay.org

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Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, discusses our disappearing Los Angeles County beaches due to climate change, and what we can all learn from the COVID-19 pandemic as local beaches begin to reopen. Luke fights for the environment’s rights by advocating for water quality regulation and enforcement. But he’s also looking out for the humans who go to the beaches, rivers, and streams by managing the Beach Report Card with NowCast and the River Report Card.

The beach has always provided me with happiness, fun, comfort, and adventure. As a kid, my parents had to pry me and my siblings away from the beach every time we went – we would have gladly tried our luck sleeping on the cold damp sand rather than get into our minivan. Two decades later, most of my beach days end with me reluctantly walking back to my Prius clutching my beach accoutrements with pruney fingers and purple lips from staying in the water too long. Only now I don’t have to convince anyone to stop for ice cream on the way home!

The ocean always has and always will be a fixture in my life. And, the same is true for many people living in SoCal. Beaches are where families gather, where people go to relax and have fun, and where anglers provide food for their families. The beach is a priceless resource woven into our lives providing us with happiness, memories, and sustenance. This makes it hard to accept the bitter reality that we will lose many of our beaches due to impacts from climate change and coastal development. 

Climate change is causing our oceans to warm up. When water warms up it expands, leading to sea level rise. The melting of glaciers and ice sheets also contributes to sea level rise. This puts our local beaches at risk because the ocean will gradually get bigger and eat up more sand and land. 

Our coastline is also shrinking because coastal development exacerbates beach loss by acting as a barrier to the natural movement of beaches inland as well as by cutting off natural sources of sand that would have nourished our beaches.

Depending on our response to sea level rise and our approach to coastal development, Southern California is predicted to lose between 31% and 67% of its beaches. What’s even more devastating is the fact that we cannot make that figure 0% because there has not been enough done to stem climate change both locally and globally. The hard truth is losing beaches is an inevitability due to humanity’s inaction to properly safeguard them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a dire glimpse into what our future holds. It is telling that many beaches in California had to be shut down during the pandemic because too many people were drawn to them. The beach gives us opportunities to exercise and offers moments of mental peace and relaxation, especially during difficult times. While beaches in Los Angeles County start to reopen this week for active recreation activities only, we still face the reality that soon there will be less beach for all of us to enjoy. 

These facts are hard to live with. But, we need to harness our emotions and use them for action. Our actions now can ensure we give our disappearing beaches a fair chance at being saved.

Here’s what you can do right now to help save our remaining beaches:

  1. Become civically engaged! Support policies that reduce pollution and wane our dependence on oil and fossil fuels. Heal the Bay supports California Senate Bill 54/Assembly Bill 1080, which requires companies to reduce their single-use plastic packaging (derived from oil) by 75%. We also support the end of drilling in neighborhoods as well as on the coast. If there are no climate action policies to vote on, or if you can’t vote, become an activist and participate in local events like Fire Drill Fridays or volunteer with organizations like STANDLA.
  2. Change your behavior! Consider personal lifestyle changes such as eating more plant-based meals and reducing your dependence on single-use plastics. See our list of climate action tips to help you. If we all take steps to reduce our individual climate impacts, we can have a huge impact. But we can’t rely solely on our individual actions; we need policies at all levels of government that will reign in polluting industries. Learn more about why we need to make systemic changes along with personal changes.
  3. Volunteer with Heal the Bay! We offer many opportunities for individuals and groups to help make an impact on protecting the environment. Register for a virtual volunteer orientation. Once we are back up and running, you can join us for a beach cleanup, help educate the public at Heal the Bay Aquarium, and participate in our community science programs.  
  4. Enjoy the beach safely! Tackling climate change requires widespread public support and for all of us to adapt to new realities. Whenever you visit the beach, make sure you are following all signage posted in the area as well as health and safety guidelines. And before you go in the water, make sure you check the Beach Report Card for the latest water quality grades and information.
  5. Increase coastal access! Heal the Bay supports coastal access for all, and it concerns us that many local communities in California have no access to open space. Nature heals us, and everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors. As we continue to prioritize the COVID-19 response, and look toward the gradual reopening of outdoor spaces and related services, it is crucial for our state to work with diverse stakeholders to set clear health and safety guidelines so our outdoor spaces can reopen to all people and for a variety of activities. You can take action by urging your local and state government to prioritize safety, equity, and access when creating reopening plans for our beaches, parks, and trails.


Annelisa Moe, our Water Quality Scientist, explains the potential of LA’s rainfall, and how every individual can take part in voicing which stormwater capture projects should get Measure W funding.

Like all those across the country who can, I have been practicing responsible physical distancing and staying #SaferAtHome, only leaving the house to buy food or go for a walk. It is getting hot now, but throughout March there were days when I had to carefully time my neighborhood walks to avoid getting caught in the rain – something I am not used to having to do here in sunny Los Angeles.

Although we experienced a very dry winter this year, we have also gotten an unusually wet spring. In fact, we got 4.35 inches of rain in March alone, far exceeding the historical average for that month. But let’s be honest, when it comes to rainfall in LA, “average” does not happen all that often. In 2017, we received only 5 inches of rain. In 2018, we got a whopping 19 inches of rain. And in the 5 years that I have lived in LA, I have been caught off guard by more than one mid-summer downpour.

That’s why this is the time – right now – to figure out how to capture, clean, and reuse more of our stormwater, even from the most unexpected showers, so that we can prepare for a warmer and drier future with a dwindling snowpack.

Stormwater is the number one source of pollution in our rivers, lakes, and ocean. But it could instead become a new source of water for beneficial use. We now have the opportunity to fund new multi-benefit and nature-based stormwater capture projects because LA County voters approved The Safe, Clean Water Program (Measure W) back in 2018. Dozens of projects were proposed across Los Angeles County, 53 of which qualify for funding through the Safe, Clean Water Program this year! Funding and completion of the best of these projects – the ones that truly exemplify the goals of the Safe, Clean Water Program – will improve water quality at beaches and in rivers to protect public health, and green our communities and promote local water to make LA County more resilient to climate change.


Safe Clean Water Program GIS Reference Map. Each Watershed Area is shown in its own unique color. The colored dots represent all of the projects that applied for Safe, Clean Water Program funding this year. Explore the interactive map for more information.

As members of the nine Watershed Area Steering Committees (WASCs) decide which projects to fund, they must consider the commitments made to the greater LA community under this Program, including the goals to improve water quality, prioritize nature-based solutions, foster community engagement, ensure the equitable distribution of funds, and provide local quality jobs.

Fifty-three stormwater capture projects to choose from for Measure W funding! 

OurWaterLA, a diverse coalition working to reinvest in our water future, believes that the following projects best exemplify the goals of the Safe, Clean Water Program, out of the 53 proposed:

In response to COVID-19, WASCs will now convene through virtual online meetings, which are open to the public. The nine WASCs will be making their final decisions on which projects to fund starting Tuesday, April 28, and continuing through May. These funding decisions must be made with consideration given to community input. OurWaterLA will be advocating for the projects listed above, and providing additional input on other proposed projects.

Join Heal the Bay and OurWaterLA to become a Water Warrior:

Search your address to find out which WASC area is yours. Click on your WASC link below to learn all about your watershed area and your committee representatives, and then scroll down to sign up for e-mail updates. You can also check out the OurWaterLA Events calendar to see upcoming committee meeting dates, and find links to join your virtual online meeting.

Take a look at the PowerPoint presentations for the projects proposed in your WASC area, and contact your WASC representatives about which projects you would like to see funded this year.

Check out OurWaterLA Water Leader Resources. Don’t forget to share these electronic resources with your community. We may be physically distancing right now, but we can band together online and in spirit to secure our water future!

Contact Annelisa at Heal the Bay with any questions, or to learn more about how to get involved.


Want to learn more?



Recent school closures mean many students are not getting the daily education they need. While we all should be practicing physical distancing at this time, we also need to put our brainpower and creative energy to good use and innovate to give students more opportunities to keep learning remotely.

Heal the Bay is responding with a new interactive science education series “Knowledge Drops”, where our team of scientists, experts, and advocates explores the water world and offers fun lessons about the marine environment. Each session is about 1-hour long and includes a live presentation, Q&A, polls, and videos. Our new webinar series is generally geared for 3rd – 8th grade students, but all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend!

See all recorded Knowledge Drops.

See Gotitas Del Saber en Español.

 

Knowledge Drops:

Past Knowledge Drops (Link to Resources and Recordings Below)

3/18 – THE SEWAGE SYSTEM 🚰
3/20 – KNOW THE FLOW 💦
3/23 – MARVELOUS MOLLUSKS 🐚
3/25 – STORM DRAINS ☔️
3/27  – MARINE PROTECTED AREAS 🛡
3/30 – SHARKS AND RAYS 🦈
4/1 – BEACH REPORT CARD 💯
4/3 – PLASTICS 🥤
4/6 – SEA JELLIES 💧
4/8 – ECHINODERMS ⭐️
4/10 – CLEAN WATER ACT 📜
4/13 – COASTAL SHORE BIRDS 🦆
4/15 – COMMUNITY SCIENCE 🔬
4/17 – CONTAMINATED SEAFOOD ⛔️
4/20 – KELP 🌿
4/22 – HISTORY OF EARTH DAY 🌎
4/22 – LA HISTORIA DEL DIA DE LA TIERRA 🌍
4/24 – CLIMATE CHANGE ⚠️
4/27 – TIDE POOLS 🐌
4/29 – SEA TURTLES 🐢
5/1 – STREAMS OF THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS ⛰
5/6 – CONOCE EL FLUJO 💦
5/8 – VIRUSES AND WATER QUALITY: IS IT SAFE TO SWIM?
5/11 – MICROSAFARI 🔎
5/13 – DESAGUES PLUVIALES 🌧
5/15 – ALGAL BLOOMS 🌊
5/18 – PENGUINS, OUR OCEAN FRINDS 🐧
5/20 – PLASTICOS 🥤
5/22 – NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS 🌳
5/27 – PESCADO CONTIMINADOS 🎣
5/29 – NATIONAL ESTUARY PROGRAM 🏞
6/3 – BLOOMS ALGAL 🌊
6/4 – NICK GABALDON DAY 🏄🏾‍♂️
6/8 – HISTORY OF WORLD OCEANS DAY  🌏
6/10 – VIRUS Y CALIDAD DEL AGUA
6/12 – AQUATIC TOXICITY: SOURCES AND SOLUTIONS ❗️
6/15 –  HOW DO I EAT? 🍴
6/17 –  SITIO SUPERFUND 🆘
6/19 –  SEA LEVEL RISE AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION 🔝
6/22 –  SEAHORSES AND OTHER FINTASTIC FATHERS 🏅
6/24 – ACUARIO Y LIMPIEZA COSTERA 🐙
6/26 – RIVER REPORT CARD 📊
6/29 – GO WITH THE GLOW: MARINE BIOLUMINESCENCE & BIOFLUORESCENCE 💡
7/1 – ÁREAS MARINAS PROTEGIDAS (MPAs)🛡
7/6 – CRUSTACEANS 🦐
7/8 – MICROSAFARI 🔎
7/10 – THE SCIENCE OF SURFING: MAKING WAVES 💨
7/15 – TOXICIDAD ACUÁTICA
7/17 – THE SCIENCE OF SURFING: BREAKING WAVES 🏄🏽‍♀️
7/22 – SEAHORSES AND GARIBALDI / LOS CABALLITOS DE MAR Y GARIBALDI 🐴
7/24 – THE FUTURE OF CALIFORNIA’S MPAs 🔮
7/29 – SHARKS AND RAYS / TIBURONES Y MANTARRAYAS 🦈
7/31 – NOWCAST AND COMPUTER CODING 🖥
8/28 – UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY 📸
9/9 – COASTAL CLEANUP MONTH: STREAMS OF THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS / MES DE LA LIMPIEZA COSTERA: ARROYOS DE LAS MONTAÑAS DE SANTA MÓNICA 🌄
9/10 – COASTAL CLEANUP MONTH: STREAMS OF THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS 🌄
9/16 –
COASTAL CLEANUP MONTH: RIVER WATER QUALITY AND RECREATION /
MES DE LA LIMPIEZA COSTERA: HEAL THE BAY’S CALIFICACIONES DEL RÍO 🚣🏾‍♀️
9/17 –
COASTAL CLEANUP MONTH: RIVER WATER QUALITY AND RECREATION 🚣🏾‍♀️
9/24 –
COASTAL CLEANUP MONTH: HOW TO PROTECT OUR COASTAL RESOURCES AND PEOPLE 👨‍👧‍👦

 

If you are a teacher with a topic suggestion, please contact us with your idea.


Resources and Videos:

All previously recorded Knowledge Drops webinar videos are posted here as an ongoing marine science education repository for you to access. (To view the webinar recordings please visit the ‘gotowebinar’ links below and enter in your contact information. We will only use your email address to update you about upcoming “Knowledge Drops” and you can opt out at any time.)

Knowledge Drops: The Sewage System

Recorded Webinar:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4060559519187745537

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Know the Flow

Recorded Webinar:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3731720880131676929

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Marvelous Mollusks

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1113287814740681997

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Knowledge Drops: Storm Drains

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3714805993360585228

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Knowledge Drops: Marine Protected Areas

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6774566533598479118

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Knowledge Drops: Sharks and Rays

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2799933154324367873

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Knowledge Drops: Beach Report Card

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2647981746921586183

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Knowledge Drops: Plastics

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2108763652518416390

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Sea Jellies

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/7805031030394553612

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Echinoderms

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1666934800615825409

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Knowledge Drops: Clean Water Act

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/49080406197676296

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Knowledge Drops: Coastal Shore Birds

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8011810684827116557

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Knowledge Drops: Community Science

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5143253017727002625

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Knowledge Drops: Contaminated Seafood 

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3010226848162550540

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Knowledge Drops: Kelp

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/7135795686275352323

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Knowledge Drops: History of Earth Day

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/9196918193512903691

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Knowledge Drops: La historia del Día de la Tierra

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4446715700219695361

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Knowledge Drops: Climate Change

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4260433141749869576

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Tide Pools

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/7691541639666544642

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Sea Turtles

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4124039823946440967

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Knowledge Drops: Streams of the Santa Monica Mountains

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/836241671707943942

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Knowledge Drops: Conoce el Flujo

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2622740259256834566

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Viruses and Water Quality

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3755868355584721676

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: MicroSafari

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3060639456826881296

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Knowledge Drops: Desagues Pluviales

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6033268098610078222

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Knowledge Drops: Algal Blooms

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/9101984161056214031

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Knowledge Drops: Penguins, Our Ocean Friends

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5651654000998667271

Knowledge Drops: Plasticos

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3195564926916837132

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Nature-Based Solutions

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5626478483345947656

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Pescados Contaminados

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/848989410095476225

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Knowledge Drops: Blooms Algal

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/7583230949052736528

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Knowledge Drops: Nick Gabaldon Day

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5352684695196396558

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: History of World Oceans Day

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5875102252017903117

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Virus y Calidad del Agua

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/9161552403089257478

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Aquatic Toxicity: Sources and Solutions

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4000079784492577294

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: How Do I Eat?

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5523565295028591874

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Sitio Superfund

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3636684594553388047

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Sea Level Rise and Climate Change Adaptation

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5604186985223808015

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Seahorses and Other Fantastic Fathers

Recorded Webinar:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5378112001456551435

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Aquario y Limpieza Costera

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5657488010514034189

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: River Report Card

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5829170154165669133

 

Knowledge Drops: Marine Bioluminescence & Biofluorescence

Recorded Webinar:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4556212766197647874 

 More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Áreas Marinas Protegidas (MPAS)

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6766161868839098128

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Crustaceans

Recorded Webinar:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1116456609554810369

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: MicroSafari (en Español)

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6461401435030243855

Knowledge Drops: The Science of Surfing: Making Waves

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3483683154009164559

Knowledge Drops: Toxicidad Acuática

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5609503124519119873

Knowledge Drops: The Science of Surfing: Breaking Waves

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8071947375896586247

Knowledge Drops: Seahorses and Garibaldi / Los Caballitos De Mar Y Garibaldi

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3450783567349679107

Knowledge Drops: The Future of California’s MPAs

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3986487622678927873

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Sharks and Rays / Tiburones y Mantarrayas

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1511927852828490255

Knowledge Drops: NowCast and Computer Coding

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3265895189780110337

Knowledge Drops: Underwater Photography

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2030045220290813452

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Coastal Cleanup Month: Streams of the Santa Monica Mountains / Mes de la Limpieza Costera: Arroyos de las Montañas de Santa Mónica

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8526730675111592195

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Coastal Cleanup Month: Streams of the Santa Monica Mountains

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2305934678223571970

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Coastal Cleanup Month: River Water Quality and Recreation / Mes de la Limpieza Costera: Heal the Bay’s Calificaciones del Río

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8003309264375293707

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Coastal Cleanup Month: River Water Quality and Recreation

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4673747262445181187

More Information:

Knowledge Drops: Coastal Cleanup Month: How to Protect Our Coastal Resources and People

Recorded Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1065643780960024080

More Information:


Activity Guides



To do our part in reducing the spread of COVID-19, Heal the Bay is following guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Health and suspending all public programs, including programming at Heal the Bay Aquarium effective immediately. Heal the Bay Aquarium is temporarily closed and all Heal the Bay public program activities are suspended until further notice to accommodate physical distancing and help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The health and safety of our supporters, partners, staff, and community-at-large are our top priority. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will abide by any recommendations from our local health agencies and the CDC. We urge you to follow LA’s Safer At Home orders at this time to help #FlattenTheCurve and save lives.

Suspended public programs include: Speakers Bureau, Beach Cleanups (Nothin’ But Sand, Suits on the Sand & Adopt-A-Beach), Angler Outreach Program, Wednesday Volunteers, Marine Protected Area Watch as well as Heal the Bay Aquarium (Birthday Parties, Field Trips, public hours & special events).

We will provide updates as new information becomes available. Our Aquarium staff will remain working at our facility to provide care for the animals and conduct maintenance. Heal the Bay staff will work remotely and in the main office during this time.

For the health and well-being of all, please take proper precautions to limit the spread of illness. Please follow these guidelines:

  • Please stay home if you feel sick and/or have a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
  • Wear a fabric face mask or facial covering when you are out in public.
  • Practice physical distancing by staying at least 6-feet away from people who are not in your household.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. (If a tissue is unavailable, use your upper sleeve or inside your bent elbow.)
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Make frequent use of hand sanitizer if available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Follow all directives and guidelines by your health care provider and local health officials.
  • Get a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.

For more information, visit Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and view the LA Mayor’s Directive about COVID-19 LA City Guidelines.

If you have any questions, please Contact Us. If you are looking for marine science education resources, check out Knowledge Drops.

 

Last updated: June 23, 2020



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.

20180828_081011 20180828_081006 2011-09-13_08-38-50_596 Flowing LA River Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 12.25.35 PM
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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.