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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: South Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Nov 4, 2016 – The syringe saga begins anew, writes staff scientist Steven Johnson.

If you live in Los Angeles, I have a new program for you to watch.

It’s a televised drama that contains high-stakes political maneuvering, involves people who unwittingly end up exposed to a dangerously sharp edge when you least expect it, and deals with a war of Five Kings.

What? You know the program I’m talking about? No, not Game of Thrones (but good guess) – something with a little less viewership and attention. It’s the sickening story of medical waste washing up on our local beaches. Let me quickly fill you in on last season, which ended in June 2016.

The “Five Kings” is a nickname that has been used for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. This locally governing body originally got their name due to a combination of power, homogeneity, and longevity of the members. Term limits were voted in by 64% of Los Angeles voters in 2002 and the Board itself has since morphed to better represent the diversity in the County. They still retain their tremendous power over a growing constituency, however, which is what makes them so fascinating. Each of the five supervisors represents almost two million Angelenos apiece, which is 2,000 times as many people as the original 1,000 citizens each supervisor represented in 1852. Today you have what the L.A. Times has argued are the five most powerful locally-elected individuals in the nation.

Now you know the characters and the setting. Let me set the stakes.

Early in 2016, Los Angeles County was set to have one of the most stringent used needles and unused prescription medication take-back programs in the country. At the time, only Alameda County (the county east of San Francisco containing Oakland, Berkeley, and Livermore) had such a program in place. This take-back program would ideally take the form of depositories (think mailbox/library book return) in Los Angeles drug stores and other convenient places. Heal the Bay believes that this ordinance will help keep used syringes off our shores and unused, yet abusable, medications out of our medicine cabinets and waterways. Currently, people either throw away syringes with other trash, where they can harm sanitation workers, or worse—flush them down the toilet. Heal the Bay became very aware of the danger of flushed syringes following last September’s Hyperion sewer spill, when hundreds of syringes, along with other medical waste, washed up on the shores around Dockweiler Beach. The take-back ordinance would be funded by the same people who profit from our prescription purchases in the first place: the pharmaceutical companies.

So what happened?

Over the course of spring 2016 the ordinance was delayed five times. This continued until the nail-biting season finale which took place this past June. On that fateful day, when Los Angeles County was supposed to confirm its comprehensive sharps and pharmaceutical take-back program, it was replaced in the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute by a watered-down public education campaign. The only similarity between the old ordinance and the new education campaign would be the funders – in both cases the pharmaceutical companies. They were asked to spend the next few months overseeing an education and outreach campaign and host quarterly take-back days.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, who have become leaders on the Board in the effort to establish the ordinance, warned their fellow supervisors that the proposed education program would fall far short of the original ordinance in addressing the issues posed by sharps and pharmaceuticals, and assured their constituents that they had not seen the last of the ordinance itself.

Months have gone by and the results of the public education program and take-back events have been announced. According to County of Los Angeles Public Health, the pharmaceutical companies’ campaign objectives in summary “were not approved.” Of the mandated “Education and Outreach, Take-Back Events, and Outcome Measurement Plans,” there were only two categories (out of the 43 total graded requirements) where the Pharmaceutical Workgroup actually met the Supervisors’ set criteria: The campaign messages were in fact translated into Spanish, and that the group did indeed “establish a single website.” In every other category the Pharmaceutical Outreach and Education Team either partially or totally failed.

Last week, Supervisors Kuehl and Solis proved they were keeping their word and have been paying close attention to the program. That brings us up to speed to what’s happened up until yesterday’s season premiere.

The inadequacies of the outreach campaign were discussed at the Board’s Tuesday, November 1 hearing. After hearing L.A. County Public Health officials’ report, Supervisors Solis and Kuehl reiterated their stance that the whole effort was disappointing, with Solis stating that the industry’s efforts would receive an F grade if it were a student.

Sheila Kuehl stated that the people of L.A. County “should have an easy choice” of where to get rid of their old medications and used syringes. She went on to say that as Supervisors, “it’s our responsibility [to make it happen] and we will take it.”

But when the other Supervisors spoke, those in support of the ordinance looked completely miffed, as Supervisors Antonovich, Knabe, and Ridley-Thomas all seemed to think the ordinance needed more work—despite almost a year of efforts, delays, and postponements. At this point the well-crafted take-back ordinance, to the dismay of its many supporters, was put in a state of limbo. And that’s where our most recent episode ends.

Looking at the season ahead, there is hope for the take-back program. There will be two new characters destined to join our outnumbered heroes. Two of the five kings will be replaced by new, undetermined Supervisors, as the newly initiated term limits have taken effect. Even the two electoral races to replace Supervisors Antonovich and Knabe themselves have been quite dramatic so far.

There are rumors that the take-back program will be presented again in front of the newly vitalized board as soon as January 2017.

Hearings begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and are replayed each subsequent Wednesday night on television network KLCS at 10 p.m.

And unlike HBO, KLCS is free.

Stay tuned for updates in the coming months as the Syringe Saga continues…



 

 

Sept. 21, 2015 — Each day, the Hyperion Treatment Plant discharges hundreds of millions of gallons of treated wastewater into Santa Monica Bay. Thanks to the work of Heal the Bay 30 years ago, this effluent is now cleansed and sanitized to a “secondary treatment” level that greatly minimizes the amount of pollutants that can make people and animals sick.

The treated wastewater eventually makes its way to the ocean via a pipe that runs five miles under the sea at the southern end of Dockweiler Beach.

Unfortunately, this pipe and a massive pump require maintenance repairs after running continuously for the past 54 years. LA Sanitation will be making needed fixes Sept. 21 through Nov. 2.

The city of Los Angeles will discharge the wastewater through a one-mile emergency pipe and outfall during this time period. 

Heal the Bay is concerned that a temporary outfall location located just a mile offshore – in much shallower, warmer waters — could have potential impacts to human health, animal life and create an increased risk of harmful algal blooms (HABS). As such, we are working closely with city officials to ensure that impacts are minimized, extensive monitoring occurs, and the relevant information is conveyed to the public in a timely manner. We will be closely evaluating bacteria samples collected by the city of Los Angeles to determine if levels are exceeding health standards and impacting ocean users. 

For the next five weeks, we will be providing regular updates about project progress and water quality at impacted beaches. You can also access real-time information via our Beach Report Card Twitter feed.

Note: The County of Los Angeles issued an official closure of Dockweiler State Beach on 9/23 because of bacteria exceedances and the presence of sanitary waste items and hypodermic needles along the shoreline. Those beaches were officially re-opened on 9/26. A phytoplankton bloom stretching for miles was confirmed on 9/28.


Latest Updates

Noon, Monday, Nov. 2: Use of One-Mile Outfall Discontinued

As of midnight last night, the diversion to the one-mile outfall has ceased. Hip hip hooray! Treated effluent is now being discharged from the five-mile outfall, which reduces the chances of blooms and other near-shore impacts.

The latest chlorophyll measurements have been low, indicating that phytoplankton blooms are not currently present in the Bay. Last week’s high winds and strong offshore currents greatly dissipated the effluent plume and all bacterial samples taken on Oct. 31 passed bacterial compliance levels. For a list of which beaches were tested, visit the project site at: http://www.sccoos.org/projects/hyperion/2015/

We want to thank everyone who has helped us stay current on the latest in trash and phytoplankton movements during this process. We couldn’t do what we do without such helpful supporters! And as always, don’t forget to check the Beach Report Card every week for the latest grades at your favorite beaches. 

5 p.m., Friday Oct. 23: Red Tide Testing Under Way

The newest grades for our local beaches impacted by the Hyperion discharge are posted and can be found at http://brc.healthebay.org/

Now as for the algae. Green, brown, and red patches of color and blooms have been seen in areas of  Santa Monica Bay over the last week. While much of the country gets fall colors in the tree canopy, we seem to have gotten them along our shoreline this year. None of the samples taken so far have found any harmful algae or phytoplankton species. However, there will be sampling tomorrow both offshore and in the two King Harbor Basins. We will let you know when they have assessed those samples to determine their content.

What does that mean for this warm weekend as you get ready to go to the beach?

 

  1. Check your grade! Bacteria levels and the color of the waves aren’t always related. So make sure that your beach has received a good bill of health (despite its recent color).
  2.  If anything seems really unusual or foul, report it. Let the lifeguards know, and send us a photo with your exact location and the time you were there. That helps us to track any large changes over time.
  3.  Have a good time! So long as your beach has gotten a good grade, and you’re swimming away from piers, storm drains, and enclosed beaches, you have nothing to worry about,. So go out there and catch some waves!

 

5 p.m., Wednesday Oct. 21: Red Tide Spotted in Redondo

An image taken on 10/17 of the green-tinted surf at Playa del Rey. Image courtesy Morgan Schwartz

This weekend foamy brown and green waves washed ashore along South Bay beaches. It’s a sight not seen often along our normally clear coastline, and a source of concern for local beachgoers given all the emails and photos we received. While the thickly colored and foamy waves seem like an exaggerated Hollywood depiction of polluted water, the cause of these waves is actually a fascinating scientific phenomenon.

During the Hyperion Treatment Plant diversion, a plethora of nutrients that are normally piped out five miles of shore has been flowing out just a mile off our coastline while repairs are done to the pumps in the five-mile line. This nutrient flow is a byproduct of the sanitation process, containing nitrogen and phosphorus that have made their way to the wastewater treatment plant from human waste, food, soaps, and detergents. The sanitation process removes harmful bacteria and some of the nutrients from our collective waste, but some of the nutrients remain in the effluent. These nutrients comprise a pre-Thanksgiving feast for the algae and diatoms (together known as phytoplankton) found in our waters.  This massive food source, combined with warm water, sunny skies, and strong ocean current, has turbocharged the growth of the colorful blooms seen recently near Hyperion.

But what about the froth and foam along the shoreline? For that, we have diatoms to thank. Diatoms are glass-shelled phytoplankton that not only contain chlorophyll, but also the yellow-brown photosynthetic pigment known as xanthophylls.

Xanthophylls are what give the water the distinct brownish color.  When the diatoms are agitated by waves or by winds, they break up, thereby releasing the oils they use to store their food reserves that in turn cause foam.  The discoloration is not harmful to the public nor the marine animals. Nor is it harmful to the environment unless the diatoms increase to such tremendous numbers that oxygen in the ocean becomes locally depleted.  

Unfortunately, we are currently seeing a growing red tide throughout the South Bay, concentrated near the King Harbor area of Redondo Beach. USC scientists working with LA Sanitation are currently sampling the water in order to determine the content and concentration of this phenomenon.

We are concerned about these circumstances, as massive algal blooms that persist for long periods of time can deoxygenate the aquatic environment and result in the die-off of animals that live along the seafloor. So far, the changing currents have kept the blooms from persisting in one location for extensive periods of time, reducing the risk of harm to our ocean habitat.

However, we continue to track the frequency and intensity of the blooms. Tips from beachgoers help us track the situation. Please send us any photos of massively discolored or foamy waves and let us know their exact location. You can email them to lgriffin[AT]healthebay.org, or post them to our Facebook page. While we hope that this red tide doesn’t persist, we need beachgoers to help us document the situation if it does.

On the fecal indicator bacteria front, the most recent data show no exceedances at the South Bay beaches that were sampled on Oct. 19. For a list of sampled beaches and if they have passed or exceeded limits, visit this project website.  You can scroll down to the table “Shoreline Fecal Indicator Bacteria” for latest results.

3 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 15: More Blooms As Far North As Venice

Observations of patches of discolored water continue, with the most recent patch extending North from Venice. The color of the water has been reported as an olive-green consistency throughout the first two meters of the water column. This area is experiencing high concentrations of chlorophyll (a representation of phytoplankton concentration). Each of the phytoplankton bloom patches that we have seen in the bay over the last several weeks have dissipated quickly,  and we hope that the story is the same here. We will be keeping an eye on the situation with help from scientists at LA Environmental Monitoring Division, UCSB, and USC. On the 13th (the most recent sample data available) all water quality samples taken by LA Environmental Monitoring Division passed water quality standards.

4 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 9: L.A. City Council Demands Answers

On the heels of the Oct. 8 hearing at the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin introduced a motion today to ensure that City Council is fully briefed on the cause of the MOSO discharge from Hyperion last month. Bonin, whose district includes affected beaches, asked for concrete actions to keep a similar incident from happening again. Amid growing public concern, the motion requires that Hyperion officials report to the Board on the status of their investigation within three weeks, and that the city assemble a Bay Emergency Response Team that includes various stakeholders, including NGOs such as Heal the Bay, to assist with public notification during spills and other emergency events. The motion also calls for better public education on what should and should not be flushed down toilets. Tampon applicators, condoms and syringes have no business being sent to Hyperion in the first place!

At a media event organized by Councilmember Bonin, Heal the Bay president Alix Hobbs discussed our work to update the public about discharges from Hyperion and hold officials accountable. We hope to use this incident to improve our city through better education as well as better use of our precious water resources. In a time of extreme drought, we should be recycling treated wastewater instead of sending it uselessly to sea. And we should be capturing stormwater instead of seeing high volumes of runoff inundate an already-taxed Hyperion during rainy weather.

You can read more about the council’s action here.

7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 8: Regional Water Board Demands Accountability

What happened at Hyperion after the epic rainstorm on September 15?

That was the question of the hour—well, four hours, actually—at today’s Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting in downtown L.A., where representatives from the Regional Board, LA Sanitation, Hyperion Treatment Plant, and Heal the Bay contributed testimony on the Hyperion MOSO discharge. What systems failed that led to hundreds of pounds of plastic waste washing up at beaches from Ballona Creek to Manhattan Beach—waste that included hazardous materials like tampon applicators, used condoms and syringes?

The verdict: No one really knows.

“Despite our best laid plans, things have not gone as expected,” said an L.A. Sanitation spokesperson, during the public comment section of the meeting. She added that “there is not an obvious answer” to the question of why this MOSO was discharged from the temporary 1-mile outfall after a 2” rainstorm pummeled the Southland.

The lack of an explanation for the discharge set the stage for comments from Heal the Bay’s James Alamillo, who pointed to the 1,500 online signatures obtained from concerned citizens in less than 24 hours as proof positive of the urgency of the situation. “In 20 years of cleanups, there has never been a cleanup event with this kind of [MOSO] material. At stake is not only our tourism-based economy, but a potential violation of a stormwater or NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permit. We need to make sure that an event like this doesn’t occur in the future, and we need to find the true cause.”

So what needs to happen—and how long will it take—to determine the cause of the discharge?

Regional Board member Madelyn Glickfeld had a bold suggestion: “We need the best sewer plant operator in the world to come review our system.” Board Executive Officer Sam Unger also reported that engineering resources from the EPA will be brought in to examine the inner workings of Hyperion to determine if any improvements in protocol can be made. In terms of the timeline of the investigation, a full report will be presented at the Regional Board Meeting in January.

After an hour of complex and jargon-heavy back-and-forth between the Board and L.A. Sanitation and Hyperion officials, something different captivated the room: The passionate, emotional testimonies from two L.A. beach-goers who decided to attend the meeting after seeing our Action Alert online. “I am deeply concerned that there is only a net between me and a sewage pipe,” said Sarah Spinuzzi, a surfer and recent law school graduate specializing in water issues. Echoing her sentiment was Rebecca Fix, a lifelong Angeleno who advocated for “exceptionally clean water, not just acceptably clean water.” Board Vice-Chair Irma Muñoz commended Sarah and Rebecca for speaking out, and urged city and county agencies to better utilize the communications networks of grassroots organizations like Heal the Bay to improve the dissemination of information pertinent to public health.

Alix Hobbs, Heal the Bay’s president, sees the MOSO discharge incident as an unfortunate reminder of days we thought were long-past: “We’re having conversations that hearken back to the ‘90s about sewage spills when we should really be collaborating around water recycling.” She’s optimistic about the incident catalyzing a shift toward smarter water management, which will require all stakeholders involved to work together for a more resilient—and less trashy—water future.

As El Niño threatens to deluge Southern California this winter, the question looms: Can Hyperion withstand the impending onslaught? Water Board officials recommended taking some of the burden off Hyperion by diverting heavy stormwater flow to other treatment plants. With rain predicted in the coming week, and three weeks remaining in the 5-mile outfall repair project, it’s a safe bet that the staff of L.A. Sanitation, Hyperion Treatment Plant and Heal the Bay will be watching weather reports very, very closely.

5 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 6: Heal the Bay Posts Action Alert

Over the last several weeks we have seen a flurry of concerning events occur in our Bay resulting from discharge at Hyperion. First and foremost on that list is the washing up of tampon applicators, hypodermic needles and other unsightly and dangerous sewage-related debris along beaches from Ballona Creek down through Manhattan Beach for several days. The most recent hypothesis from LA Sanitation is that these materials were trapped in a temporary outfall for 10 years due to a sewage overflow that happened a decade ago.

We have several concerns with officials’ explanations, especially regarding the age of the trash that washed ashore. Photo documentation as well as staff observations reveal that the debris does not show any type of algal growth or decomposition that would be expected during 10 years of sitting in an outfall pipe out at sea.

Heal the Bay will be testifying at the Regional Water Quality Control Board hearing this Thursday, Oct. 8, at 9 a.m. at the Metropolitan Water District in downtown Los Angeles. We encourage you to attend and demand that regulators hold Hyperion accountable for this failure. The amount of dangerous pollution that entered our Bay is simply unacceptable. We need answers and we need to know that this will never happen again.

More recently, the Bay has seen a major phytoplankton bloom, likely the result of the nutrients found in treated effluent flowing out to sea from the one-mile discharge pipe. The blooms are exacerbated because the nutrient loads are flowing into shallow, warm waters just a mile from shore. Fortunately, the bloom has subsided, but we may see similar blooms over the next four weeks while the main outfall pipe at Hyperion is being repaired. The bloom was recorded from Santa Monica down to Palos Verdes last week. Strong westerly winds kept it along the shoreline, rather than dispersing offshore.

None of the samples taken contained organisms of concern (such as those that are related to HABs or “harmful algal blooms”). However, there was a significant amount of shading of aquatic habitats seen during this bloom, and this reduction in visibility at the surface of the water was concerning. This shading of the water column can keep sunlight from reaching organisms that require it, such as kelp and benthic algae.

The rapid decrease of visibility in the water also didn’t match with the levels of phytoplankton that were present, suggesting that not all of the shading was just from these organisms. This adds turbidity to the list of concerns we have regarding the effluent from Hyperion and its impact on local marine life. The degradation of phytoplankton can also be oxygen intensive, creating O2 deficient waters that can be harmful to marine organisms. Fortunately, this bloom was short lived, but we will be keeping an eye on how it may have impacted our local marine ecosystems.

It has been a dramatic couple of weeks for our Bay. If you would like to express your concerns to the Regional Board, please join us this Thursday.

And please make sure to check out our Action Alert and petition demanding that Hyperion be held accountable.

 

5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2: Blooms a Threat to Local Marine Ecoystems?The khaki-green surf from the Hermosa Beach Pier

LA Sanitation officials continue to stress that the widespread phytoplankton blooms associated with the Hyperion discharge don’t necessarily pose a health risk to ocean-goers. But there are impacts beyond just humans. Some university-affiliated scientists who have studied the Bay for years are expressing concerns about the biological impacts of widespread and persistent nutrient loads from the Hyperion discharge.

They and Heal the Bay are especially worried about potential harm to the vibrant reef-life in the Palos Verdes peninsula area. A sustained red tide in 2005 shaded and killed all the benthic algae on the Bay side of PV Peninsula, according to Dr. Dan Pondella, the chair of Occidental College’s biology department.

Tom Ford, the executive director of the Bay Foundation and a marine ecologist, has spent years diving the PV area as part of his efforts to restore kelp stocks in the region. He emailed us these detailed thoughts:

“The dense plankton at the surface shade out the light from the kelp and other algae growing on the reefs. Putting them in perennial night, they can’t photosynthesize, so they can’t make sugars to feed their tissues, and they start to die. The plankton and the kelp compete for nutrients and, when there are high densities of plankton, they outcompete the kelp and essentially starve them.

“The plankton in the bloom are short-lived and competing with one another for food and light and they are literally dying by the trillions. When they die, they are decomposed by bacteria. The decomposition requires oxygen and the water in an area being filled with dead plankton can be stripped of oxygen by the bacterial decomposition. This lack of oxygen can lead to fish kills and the loss of invertebrates as well. 

“This scenario should be one that we are concerned about, and if the bloom remains large and dense, we might see localized areas within the Bay have this process realized. The harbors, both King and Marina del Rey, have had fish die-offs in recent years, and periodically for decades, due to low dissolved oxygen and are especially sensitive to this scenario because they have limited water circulation.  

“With the combination of the top two, no energy and no food, it’s not good for the kelp forest and the 700-plus species it supports. This is the same scenario at the mouth of the Mississippi, where plankton death equals low dissolved oxygen equals a dead zone. The Chesapeake Bay also suffers greatly from this same phenomenon.”

As we head into the warm weekend, there are still numerous phytoplankton blooms in our local waters. Heal the Bay staffer Jose Bacallao went on a diving trip Wednesday on the north side of PV and saw blooms in the Lunada Bay and Rocky Point region. Diving in about 70 feet of water, Jose reported that the phytoplankton was thick in the water, blocking sunlight at the surface down to a depth of about 35 feet. LA Sanitation says it will extend vessel monitoring to PV starting tomorrow and will measure turbidity and collect bacteria samples as well.

This morning Heal the Bay’s Matthew King canvassed nearly the entire stretch of plume affected shoreline, from south of the Santa Monica Pier to King Harbor in Redondo Beach. He noticed khaki green discoloration of ocean water basically across the entire coastline, with the heaviest buildup of brownish seas in the El Porto area of Manhattan Beach. Numerous surfers dotted the sea despite the bloom. As one surfer took a much-needed shower, he could be overhead cracking to his friend: “Even the wax on my board is green!”

As a reminder: Only you can decide where to swim. While these initial results indicate that recreating in bloom-affected areas at this point in time might not make you physically ill, it may be prudent to avoid these beaches. Visiting beaches that do not exhibit compromised water quality will likely provide you better enjoyment.

11:30 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 1:

Ocean users continue to send us reports of brownish and olive-green phytoplankton blooms near the shoreline, stretching in patches from Marina del Rey to as farsouth as King Harbor in Redondo Beach. LA Sanitation worked with researchers from USC to collect samples from 10 stations in the affected areas yesterday.

Early testing indicates that chlorophyll levels are elevated in the water but no harmful species have been observed at this point, according to LA Sanitation. Officials describe the geographically spread pockets of blooms to be “more ominous than harmful at this point.”

Researchers observed Pseudo-nitzschia delicatissima, which is a smaller and non-toxin producing species of phytoplankton, but not the more dangerous Pseudo-nitzschia seriata. Officials expect to get further results of phytoplankton species analyses and domoic acid analyses later today or tomorrow. Researchers also said they think that the added presence of chlorine (4 parts per million) in the wastewater outflow will help knock down the phytoplankton. To balance both public health and the safety of our local marine life, Heal the Bay is keeping watch on the amount of chlorine being added to treat the wastewater. Too much chlorine is toxic to marine life – such as zooplankton, which are an important part of Santa Monica Bay’s marine ecosystem and food chain.

Although a bloom is of concern, officials say it’s not surprising or unexpected due to the discharge of nutrients (ammonia, nitrates, phosphates) with the effluent from Hyperion. Their main focus now is determining if harmful algal species are in sufficient numbers to raise concerns. They hope to have an update on HABs tonight or tomorrow. 

Only you can decide where to swim. While these initial results indicate that recreating in bloom-affected areas at this point in time might not make you physically ill, it may be prudent to avoid these beaches. Visiting beaches that do not exhibit compromised water quality will likely provide you better enjoyment.

Meanwhile, there’s news on the bacterial front. Exceedances (from yesterday’s samples) have been found at the Marina Del Rey Kayak area, Santa Monica Pier, and Venice Beach at the Windward Avenue stormdrain.  Again, it is wise to choose other beaches if you plan on going for a swim the next few days.

We will keep you posted when we learn more.

5 p.m., Tuesday , Sept. 29:

We continue to receive reports from eyewitnesses concerned about beach water clarity and discoloration at local beaches.

The area of phytoplankton growth that has caused discoloration of the water in South Bay beaches is still relatively small as far as blooms go in our region. Additional samples were collected today, and even more will be collected tomorrow. Once we learn more about the composition of the phytoplankton — hopefully in the next 48 hours — we can determine if it’s a harmful bloom. At this moment, there haven’t been any indicators of a harmful algal bloom, or HAB. That being said, if you go to the beach and find that there is an unpleasant odor or that the physical water quality seems unusual, use common sense. Only you can make the decision on whether or not to swim at a particular beach. And please continue to send us your photos and observations.

We are still waiting on the most recent bacterial information from beaches near the 1-mile outfall plume. The most recent sample results are from the 26th (see our update immediately below). As of now, we still recommend that beach users stay out of the water near the Redondo Beach Pier, at Topaz Avenue and at “The Box.”

6:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 28:

All beaches that were closed due to the sewage-related trash from Playa del Rey to Manhattan Beach remain open. L.A. Sanitation tells us that daily sweeps will be conducted at these beaches to ensure that any further trash washing up ashore is handled appropriately.

The most recent set of water quality samples – taken this Saturday – do not show bacterial exceedances from monitoring sites from Playa del Rey to Manhattan Beach. However, exceedances have been found in Redondo Beach at the Pier, at Topaz and and at “The Box.” Avenue I and Herondo St. samples did not have bacterial exceedances. (Note that we are merely flagging these exceedances and cannot state that they are related to the Hyperion discharge.)

On a more distressing note, we have been receiving multiple reports today of ocean discoloration – especially in Manhattan Beach. These sightings began yesterday. We have inquired with L.A. Sanitation and they have confirmed a phytoplankton bloom, which does appear to correlate strongly with the wastewater plume from the one-mile outfall. This bloom has been seen roughly a mile from shore, from at least Ballona Creek/Marina del Rey all the way south to King Harbor in Redondo Beach.

Heal the Bay expressed concerns last month that the use of the one-mile outfall could create such blooms, as the water closer to shore is shallower, warmer and thus more conducive to phytoplankton growth as a result of the nutrient-rich wastewater.

Samples were taken in order to assess the composition of the phytoplankton and to determine if it is a harmful bloom, often known as a HAB. Just to be clear: it’s still unknown if this new bloom poses any risk to ocean users. We expect these results soon and will update as soon as we have more information.

For now, we recommend avoiding any beaches with poor weekly grades (visit the Beach Report Card site or Twitter account), any beaches with excess MOSO trash still washing ashore (please report debris to us and lifeguards if you see any), and any beaches that are foul-smelling or foul-looking. When it comes to your health, it is better to play it safe.

Last but not least, we want to extend a large thank you to our network of eyewitnesses.  Our ability to protect our local beaches is strengthened when we receive information and updates from beach visitors. Over the last week we have received many concerned emails and calls. We greatly appreciate the effort and care shown in helping us heal the Bay.

1:00 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26:

ALL BEACHES OPEN. A multi-agency task force, including L.A. City Sanitation, Beaches and Harbors, Public Health and Environmental Health, determined in a conference call this afternoon that water quality at the affected beaches is satisfactory. This decision was informed by water quality testing results, thorough sweeps and cleanups of affected beaches, surface monitoring at the site of the outfall pipe breach and the repair of the netting on the outfall pipe to prevent a breach of this magnitude from happening again.

Heal the Bay is confident that the water and beaches are safe again, but we continue to closely monitor the situation as repair on the 5-mile outfall pipe continues and we head into what could be a potent El Niño season. Again, we urge common sense precautions at all times when planning a beach trip:

  1. Always wait at least 3-5 days after a rain event before swimming in the ocean.
  2. Never swim within 100 yards on either side of a flowing stormdrain.
  3. Check our Beach Report Card webpage and Twitter feed for the latest beach water quality and closure information. 

We’re thankful for all of your own beach reports this week: We couldn’t protect our ocean and swimmers without the vigilance and awareness of concerned citizens like you.

Remember: If you see something fishy at the beach, let us know.

9:00 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 26:

As of yesterday evening, a coalition of public health and safety agencies has decided to reopen the beach area between Grand Ave. South to 45th St. (El Segundo Beach). However, the beach area between Grand Ave. North to Ballona Creek (Dockweiler Beach) remains closed.

Please use common sense when planning a swim at any urban beach. If you see unusual amounts or types of waste materials on the sand or in the water, do not swim, alert the lifeguard and email Heal the Bay

6:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 25:

Beaches remain closed between Ballona Creek at Dockweiler Beach to 45th St. at the border of Manhattan Beach and El Segundo. However, bacterial testing of this span of coastline indicates compliance with health and safety regulations, so the Department of Public Health will use that information to determine when beaches will reopen.

Cleanup crews are continuing to clean up affected areas of coastline as needed, but most of the waste has been reported collected. However, beachgoers are reporting waste in parts of Manhattan Beach and Venice today, so the DPH has been alerted and cleanup crews activated. As always, if you see any medical or personal hygiene waste, let us know.

L.A. Sanitation and DPH are looking into redundant screening methods to supplement the newly-replaced net at the outfall point.

Heal the Bay will continue to monitor the situation and post regular updates on Twitter. You can also check the DPH’s beach advisory site here, which should have the latest information and advisories. 

6:30 p.m, Thursday, Sept. 24: 

Many people are concerned about reports of hypodermic needles being among the MOSO (materials of sewage origin) washing on shore at our local beaches. LA City Sanitation employee Gonzalo Barriga reported seeing 10 needles himself last night at Dockweiler Beach, along with two smaller lancets that are used for testing blood sugar levels.

Cleanup crews all the way down to 45th Street in Manhattan Beach have confirmed finding MOSO waste, including three hypodermic needles found at 45th Street.The shoreline closure now extends from Dockweiler to 45th Street on the border of El Segundo and Manhattan Beach.

Dockweiler Hyperion sewage spill beach closure map

Heal the Bay has received reports from ocean users stating that they have found similar debris in the water and shorelines further south in Manhattan Beach throughout the last week. Why is waste showing up in Manhattan Beach? Probably because yesterday’s surface currents were directed south, moving the effluent plume down and parallel to the coast rather than directly onshore to Dockweiler as had been seen for the previous two days. Thus, Manhattan Beach sites may have received more trash overnight. The cleanup is ongoing.

Meanwhile, two sweeps of the initial four-mile closure areas have been completed from Ballona Creek to Grand Avenue. The area will be assessed for debris again this evening after high tide, as well as tomorrow morning.

A clean-up sweep this morning revealed that there is 80% less debris today at Dockweiler than there was yesterday, according to the LA San. Last night more than 200 pounds of material was collected. The other good news is that the latest water quality testing completed yesterday shows no bacterial exceedances at monitoring locations.

Three LA Sanitation vessels at the one-mile outfall have reported no visuals of additional trash surfacing in the last three days.

Officials stress that the MOSO material is nontoxic. However, we believe that people should avoid any stretch of beach where multiple needles and other sewage-related items have been reported in the sand until beaches are officially opened again.

So where is all this trash coming from?

Last week, Hyperion was forced to pump treated wastewater out of a backup one-mile outfall because of an emergency pump failure during the large rainfall. Unfortunately, there was no net in place at the end of the outfall to capture any of the plastic debris that came with the flow.

On Monday, when the diversion began for the long-scheduled pump repair project, a net was in place but was observed to have failed the following day. A new re-engineered net was installed today, which will hopefully help to ensure that no more of this debris is entering our Bay. The net will be checked regularly.

People have asked Heal the Bay if personal hygiene items, condoms and other types of medical trash are dumped into the sea when wastewater is discharged out of the normally used 5-mile outfall. Are we just seeing this waste on our shores now because the one-mile outfall is being employed? Is this trash normally unseen five miles out to sea?

Adel Hagekhalil, assistant director of LA San, tells us that during normal operations of the treatment plant that none of this debris should make its way through the system. His team is aggressively trying to track down the cause of the trash field, but initial reports indicated that recent heavy rains may have played a part.

When it rains heavily, much larger volumes of water than normal move through the treatment system and capture systems can be overwhelmed. Treatment plants are primarily designed to handle biodegradable solids, not plastic waste flushed down toilets by careless people. Usually, these personal items are filtered in the beginning of the treatment process, but all bets are off when heavy flows come into the plant.

And remember to check our Beach Report Card for the latest health grades for over 100 LA-area beaches, and keep emailing us with your reports and photos if you find this type of debris at your local beach.


 

12 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24: Heal the Bay staff were at Dockweiler Beach early this morning to monitor the clean-up

Dockweiller Beach Closure

status and speak with media about the beach closure.

Official response is still underway, with lots of City and County personnel on the beach, and clean-up crews at North Dockweiler. We also witnessed a lifeguard advising a surfer against entering the water.

We received a report from the County Dept. of Public Health this morning that clean-up crews worked through the night, removing approximately 200 pounds of tampons and hypodermic syringes from the beach. Operators at Hyperion believes this waste is likely from the wastewater treatment system becoming overwhelmed from the heavy rain last week, and flowing through the 1-mile pipe as the City began to use it for discharge of treated effluent this week during the maintenance on the 5-mile pipe and associated pumps.

Lifeguards confirmed posting closure signs at the southern end of the closure (starting at Grand Ave), and will complete posting the northern portion of the closed area at Playa del Rey to Ballona Creek this morning.

City of LA Bureau of Sanitation will also be testing the water again this morning, with results available tomorrow. Please continue to visit our running blog for updates about the closure and clean-up, as well as water quality information.


 

9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23:  The County of Los Angeles’  Department of Public Health has declared an offical beach closure at Dockweiler State Beach, covering the area from Ballona Creek to Grand Ave.

The County sent the following information to Heal the Bay tonight:

“Beaches and Harbors reported tampon applicators and hypodermic needles on the beach between Culver Blvd (Ballona Creek) and Napoleon St.  Current bacteria test results show bacteria levels that exceed State standards extending to Grand Ave. Therefore the closure area was extended to Grand Ave.  Due to Hyperion Treatment Plant’s diversion to the 1 mile outfall, they are conducting daily sampling in the area.

According to Beaches and Harbors, Los Angeles City Department of Public Works is uncertain of the origin.  They also report that LADPW and Ocean Blue, environmental clean–up contractors, are on site conducting clean-up efforts.  Environmental Health Strike Team is also in route to assess the situation.

An update will be provided by 0900 Thursday 9/24/15, or earlier if pertinent information becomes available.

Los Angeles County Lifeguards have been notified to post closure signs.”

Heal the Bay will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as we receive them.


 

4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23: This morning Heal the Bay supporters sent us photos and videos showing a concerning number of plastic tampon applicators and other sanitary trash along the high tide line at Dockweiler Beach. The eyewitnesses reported similar scenes along two miles of coastline, all the way up to Ballona Creek. City officials tell us the debris is related to last week’s big storm, which caused an emergency 200-million gallon diversion of treated wastewater out the one-mile pipe. Debris that had been trapped in the one-mile outfall pipe for some time was flushed out of the pipe and into the Bay. A good portion of debris also could have been carried by the storm overflow itself. This trash — officially known as Material of Sewage Origin — unfortunately reaches our treatment plants when sanitary and contraceptive items are flushed down the toilet instead of being placed in the trash. The Hyperion plant normally captures and removes these items, but occasionally material will wend its way through the system and be discharged to sea — especially during heavy flows after big storms. The city says it has dispatched cleanup crews to both land and sea to remove the items, which could number in the hundreds. Please let us know if you see this sort of trash at other beaches in the area. 

Meanwhile, we continue to encourage people to avoid the ocean near the outfall pipe in front of Hyperion and at  at the end of Imperial Avenue. Both these beaches showed bacterial exceedances above safe levels, according to  water quality sampling conducted in the last 48 hours. People should not get in the water at these beaches until subseqent samples come back clean. Note: Not all beaches in the Dockweiler area have been tested, so we encourage potential visitors throughout the area to use caution.


 

4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22: Though bacterial data is not yet available, plume tracking shows the effluent reaching Dockweiler Beach late yesterday and again this afternoon. Near-outfall sampling of several water quality parameters show evidence of the plume in the top five meters of the water column but significantly diminished a half mile away. This is good news!  We are now just waiting on the bacterial data to determine if it’s safe at beaches closest to the plume.


 

4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21: Today marks day one of the 1-mile outfall diversion project. Today’s data show the plume of water moving up coast from the Hyperion Treatment plant and most likely reaching the shore at Dockweiler Beach this evening. Given that it’s only the first day, we don’t yet have any bacterial information but will let you know as soon as those results become available.

 


 

Hyperion Outfall PipePROJECT FAQ’S:

Why do they have to fix the pipe? What are they doing exactly?

In 2006 during an inspection of the five-mile outfall pipe, it was found that the “pump header”— the device that actually pumps the wastewater out through the pipe— needed to be replaced. Replacing this piece of equipment will reduce the potential for a catastrophic sewage overflow to occur at the plant as a result of a faulty pump. It’s a needed repair to ensure that Hyperion Treatment Plant continues to operate as intended.

The work will require the daily flows to be diverted to the emergency one-mile outfall, which is located much closer to the shoreline.

How long is it going to take?

The repairs are scheduled to take five weeks— starting Sept. 27 through Nov. 2 —with an additional week scheduled as a contingency plan to make sure that the newly installed equipment is correctly functioning and that the treatment plant resumes standard operations. Construction will be going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to try and replace the pump as fast as possible.

How much wastewater are we talking about each day?

In 2014, an average of 231 million gallons of secondary-treated wastewater was discharged to the Santa Monica Bay daily. This volume is slightly lower than the amount of sewage treated by Hyperion Treatment Plant on a daily basis, because a fraction of the treated effluent is sent to West Basin Municipal Water District for additional treatment and reuse. We hope to see more water recycling at Hyperion in the coming years to help address local water woes, while reducing effluent discharge to Santa Monica Bay.

How far is this plume of diverted wastewater going to spread? What areas are affected?

Discharging effluent out the one-mile pipeline means that it has a much higher chance of reaching the shore. With currents, winds, and waves, the effluent will eventually disperse throughout the Santa Monica Bay. Depending upon oceanographic and weather conditions, the plume will likely range from Point Dume to Palos Verdes, diluting further the farther that it travels. The predicted area with the highest impact in terms of wastewater concentration (90% probability of exposure) is from Dockweiler Beach at Imperial Highway down to Manhattan Beach.

What’s in the wastewater? What is it exactly?

Before effluent is discharged to the ocean, wastewater receives a series of physical, biological, and chemical treatments at Hyperion. This “secondary treatment” successfully removes a very large percentage of the organic matter contained in wastewater. However, the effluent still contains potential contaminants, such as metals, fecal pathogens, chemical toxins and nutrients (think food for algae and cyanobacteria), ammonia, and in this case chlorine from the disinfection process.

What is Secondary Treated Wastewater?

There are usually three treatment levels for wastewater: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Each level of treatment requires more time and resources in order to achieve a higher quality or cleanliness of water. Hyperion Treatment Plant treats its wastewater to a secondary level. This means that wastewater will have gone through both primary and secondary treatment prior to being discharged into the ocean.  

Primary treatment is designed to remove large and floating solids from raw sewage. It also reduces organic material by 20%-30% and total suspended solids by some 50%-60%. Secondary treatment typically removes the remaining organic matter that escaped primary treatment. This process is then followed by having the wastewater placed in holding tanks to remove even more of the suspended solids. About 85% of the suspended solids and organic material can be removed. Finally, the wastewater goes through a disinfection process, typically with chlorine, ozone, or UV radiation, before the wastewater can be discharged into the ocean. Depending upon the disinfection utilized, there are often requirements to address the disinfectant so that it does not impact the natural environment.

Is this newly diverted wastewater dangerous or harmful? Should I be worried about getting into the water?

The city of Los Angeles designed this project to minimize negative impacts to public health, with extensive monitoring. Ongoing monitoring throughout the diversion process will tell us more about sea water quality during the diversion. Heal the Bay has asked for water quality monitoring results to be publicly disseminated as rapidly as possible, so that beachgoers can make informed decisions about which beaches to visit and which to avoid during this time. We will be keeping a close eye on the monitoring data and environmental conditions to insure that harmful algal blooms and bacteria levels remain low, and that marine life in the vicinity of the project are not impacted.

What effect could it have on local marine life?

The immediate area around the one-mile outfall has the potential to see the largest impacts, as it will be exposed to the highest concentration of effluent. Ammonia — a byproduct of the millions of gallons of urine that arrive at Hyperion every day — can be very toxic to marine life. Nutrient-rich wastewater is also a food source for algae and cyanobacteria, which can cause harmful algal blooms. Finally, the use of chlorine as a disinfectant, and its subsequent by-products, can be extremely toxic to aquatic life. As such, daily monitoring of these constituents (ammonia, nutrients, and total chlorine residual) at numerous sampling stations are very important.   

Does Heal the Bay feel comfortable with what’s going on?

These repairs are needed. Without them, there is a high potential for the treatment plant to have a system failure, which could lead to a disastrous sewage spill impacting one or more of our local beaches.  Hyperion is the city of Los Angeles’ largest wastewater treatment plant, and unfortunately, there is no way to stop operations and discharge completely for pipeline maintenance and maintain public health. The only option available to the city is using the one-mile outfall for the duration of the repairs. Treated secondary wastewater effluent will be pumped into shallow bay waters, not far offshore, during an unseasonably warm ocean water and potentially wet El Nino year. We are aware of the potential for this project to temporarily cause harm to marine life, increase the potential for algal blooms, and impact recreational beach waters. This is why we are so adamant about having strong monitoring, contingency, and communication plans in place.

In a time of drought, why are they dumping water into the sea anyway?

Millions of gallons of highly treated secondary wastewater flow straight from our treatment plants to the ocean every day. Unfortunately only a small percentage (about 15%) of Los Angeles’ wastewater is currently recycled due to infrastructure challenges, costs, and social misconceptions about recycled water.  Given the amount of resources and policies developed to manage and obtain potable water, it is lamentable how much water is wasted through the discharge of highly treated wastewater to the ocean. 

What else could we be doing with this water?

It is a goal for Heal the Bay to see treated wastewater be recycled and reused rather than flushed straight to the ocean. Heal the Bay was founded 30 years ago by fighting to improve water quality in Santa Monica Bay by cleaning up wastewater from Hyperion.  Today, our focus has grown to reduce the amount of effluent discharged to the Bay through greater water recycling, which will have local water quality and supply benefits. In a city that indefinitely struggles with water sustainability and sufficiency, we envision a higher use for that treated wastewater rather than wastefully disposing of it. Recycled water, which is what you see in purple pipes, can be used for irrigation, dual-flush systems, water features, and fighting fires. Treating the wastewater to an even higher level allows it to be pumped back into local aquifers, where it can be naturally polished prior to being pumped out for consumption. Water agencies in Orange County are already recycling treated wastewater to help reduce their dependency on imported water.

How can I get more information about the ongoing status of the repairs?

If you are curious about project updates during the diversion there will be a 24/7 hotline available at (424) 259-3708. You can also call the PAO (Public Affairs Office) at (213) 978-0333 and check the SCOOS (Southern California Ocean Observing System) website for the most recent monitoring data. In addition, we will provide updates via our Beach Report Card with the most recent bacterial data from the project, as well as tweeting important information during the project.

 



The recent screening of the awesome new surf documentary, “A Wedge to Remember,” gave Heal the Bay and partners Surfrider and Keep Hermosa Hermosa a platform to discuss our fight against oil drilling in Hermosa Beach. Proceeds from the evening’s raffle will be put to good use to prevent a proposed slant-drilling project in Hermosa Beach. Thanks to Dive N Surf and Body Glove for donating the gear for the raffle.

 Thank you to Pardee Properties – a real estate agency that truly walks the talk. Ten percent of their net proceeds from each sale are donated to their client’s charity of choice. We have been grateful recipients of this generosity to the tune of nearly $5,000 in 2014. And a big thanks to this Venice-based agency’s Heal the Bay-loving client base!

Heal the Bay’s lobby is looking very festive these days, thanks to a donation by Living Christmas. The company’s “elves” arrived last week with a seven-plus-foot  potted tree.

And finally, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we’re so proud of Brenton Spies, formerly a staff member at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and currently a research biologist and PhD student at UCLA.  And now we thank him mightily for his $1,000 donation to the Aquarium. The funds will go towards developing wetland based curriculum and interactive activities to be used for education and public programs at the Aquarium. The donation is a component of his successful Kickstarter campaign, which will also fund a photographic documentation of threatened and endangered ecosystems along the California coast. We also look forward to using Spies’ photographs to enhance the Aquarium’s watershed exhibit in the Dorothy Green Room.



It’s been a busy week for Heal the Bay, recovering from yet another sold out “Bring Back the Beach” gala and trying to get a handle on the fish die-off in Marina del Rey over the weekend.

 But we didn’t want to lose track of an inspirational event last Saturday – Heal the Bay’s “Nothin’ but Sand” cleanup in Hermosa Beach. More than 600 people pitched in near the Pier. But it wasn’t your average clean-up.

 In partnership with Surfrider Foundation and Keep Hermosa Hermosa, volunteers topped their beach cleaning service off by joining hands along the shore in a “Hands Across the Sand” statement against proposed oil drilling in Hermosa Beach.

Volunteers came from around Los Angeles — Lincoln Heights, Panorama City, Topanga, Diamond Bar, Palos Verdes and more – to provide service and encourage Hermosa Beach voters to stay strong against oil drilling in their community. Many volunteers expressed fears of how any mishap associated with oil drilling in Hermosa could impact all of Los Angeles, and the beach and ocean environments we all care about and love.

Interested in learning more and joining the fight against big oil? Check out Heal the Bay’s website for updates and sign up to join our activist team.

hermosa hands



This fact sheet is presented in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation.

Together, we’re committed to protecting Southern California’s waters.


Background:

The City of Hermosa Beach has a moratorium in place that prohibits oil drilling. After years of legal battles, a settlement was reached between E&B Natural Resources and the City of Hermosa Beach that could potentially allow the community to be opened up to oil drilling by putting the moratorium up for reconsideration. Hermosa Beach residents will vote March 3, 2015, on a ballot measure to allow slant-drilling into the Bay. E&B Natural Resources wants to erect an 87-foot drilling rig and up to 34 wells on a 1.3-acre plot in a residential neighborhood, extracting up to 8,000 barrels of oil each day by slant-drilling under the seafloor and surrounding beach communities. E&B had an existing lease arrangement before the current moratorium was put in place.

If voters repeal the existing moratorium, the City would have to pay $3.5 million to E&B, and the company would pursue permitting for the proposed oil drilling operation. If voters uphold the moratorium, drilling would be barred. But the city would have to pay $17.5 million to E&B under a complex settlement brokered by past city councils.

MYTH: This is a relatively small project that only affects a small slice of the Bay and really is an issue for Hermosa Beach to decide.

FACT: Oil spills know no boundaries. With nearly 50 million annual visits to Santa Monica Bay beaches and a coastal economy worth over $10 billion, a spill off Hermosa Beach would be a financial and ecological nightmare for all of Los Angeles.

oil covered plastic bottle on beachSlant-drilling into the Santa Monica Bay from Hermosa poses significant environmental and economic risks throughout Los Angeles County and the entire Bay. This project would also be precedent-setting: There are no drilling projects currently accessing oil under the Bay. Slant-drilling from onshore under offshore waters raises many of the same concerns as any other offshore oil drilling project, in terms of increasing the risk of a coastal oil spill, causing air and water pollution and contributing to global climate change. The proposed drilling operation is only six blocks from the beach. If a spill cannot be contained, oil will ultimately reach the Santa Monica Bay and surrounding communities.

MYTH: Given all the new technology, there’s really very little chance of an oil spill actually happening.

FACT: A revised EIR (Environmental Impact Report) states that there is a 12% chance of an oil spill from the proposed project.

Oil spills have the potential to significantly impact marine life and habitats in the Bay and throughout the Southern California Bight because they can spread rapidly over great distances and can be difficult to detect and clean up. A 12% chance of a spill is simply not worth the risk. An oil spill that originated in El Segundo in the 1990s reached Malibu Lagoon, and the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill spread along the coast for more than 35 miles. Furthermore, any oil spill is likely to have an impact on tourism and the coastal economy. Our state and local community has made significant investments to protect and enhance marine and coastal habitats in the Bay, such as establishing marine protected areas in Malibu, Palos Verdes and Catalina Island; restoring Malibu Lagoon; Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission’s National Estuary Program; and the planned restoration of Ballona Wetlands. An oil spill would directly undermine these long-term efforts.

MYTH: Hermosa Beach will reap a great deal of economic benefit if drilling moves forward.

FACT: The royalties proposed by E&B Oil may seem attractive in theory, but they are theoretical and wildly speculative.

Oil spill in city street

The final cost benefit analysis (CBA) and supplement added in January 2015 show a significant drop from initial revenue estimates for Hermosa Beach from the proposed project. Projections state that only $25 million to $77 million could go toward the city’s general fund over the 35 year life of the project—less than $1 million per year. And that’s with the price of oil pegged up to $95 per barrel. With current oil prices at about $40-$45 per barrel, revenue to the city’s general fund may only equate to half that income. Additionally, should the project be approved, the CBA estimates that the project will cost the city $19 million to $26 million to relocate the City Yard where the operation would be sited, remove contaminated soil from the site and to displace a revenue-generating storage facility.

In addition to the substantial project costs cited above, the CBA predicts a 10% drop in property values for home near the drilling site should voters approve Measure O.

But there are no guarantees when it comes to oil exploration. No one can accurately predict the productivity of proposed wells. Furthermore, the use of royalty payments is highly restricted, given that the majority of the revenue will come from drilling in the Tidelands. State law blocks vast majority of funding on services like police and street improvements. Despite promises of the project being a boon for local schools, according to the updated supplement to the CBA reflecting current oil barrel prices, the Hermosa Beach City School District is only projected to receive net revenues of approximately $900,000 over the 35-year life of the project. That pencils out to be about $26,000 annually—enough to cover the education costs of less than five Hermosa students. This is a small benefit when weighed against the health risks associated with drilling in a residential area.

MYTH: Hermosa Beach can’t afford to pay a $17.5 million penalty to E&B if voters uphold the moratorium.

FACT: The city has already set aside $6 million for this purpose, and staff is researching other fiscally prudent ways to pay the remainder of the $17.5 million over time that would not put undue hardship on city budgets.

The city’s cost-benefit analysis estimates loan payments to be roughly $750,000 to $800,000 annually (over 30 years). That amount totals about 3% of the City’s annual budget – not an insignificant amount, but certainly not enough to cause severe financial stress. The study also estimates that if a payment plan was based on levying taxpayers, the average cost would be $150 a year on the average home price of $1 million—a modest insurance policy against the almost-incalculable financial burden of an oil spill. However, in a financial presentation provided by City of Hermosa Beach experts at the Hermosa City Council meeting on January 27, 2015, it was clearly stated that the City does not need to raise taxes to pay E&B if Measure O is defeated. In fact, there are compelling indications in the new supplement to the cost-benefit analysis that Measure O’s defeat would actually be less costly than its passage.

MYTH: The drilling operations will pose very few risks to community health.

FACT: Noxious gasses released from the site may cause air pollution and odor issues, which have led to respiratory problems, eye and skin irritation, headaches and other ailments in communities where oil drilling already occurs.

Activist in Hazmat suit at hearing Keep Hermosa Hermosa Campaign to Stop Oil DrillingHermosa Beach is the most densely populated coastal community in California, with about 13,670 people per square mile. It also attracts nearly 4 million visitors annually. The proposed project site lies in close proximity to schools, parks, neighborhoods, trails, businesses, and the beach. Thus, public health impacts are a major concern for Hermosa Beach residents and visitors alike. The Health Impact Report was finalized in September 2014, and other studies of the potential health risks posed by oil drilling operations elsewhere cite heightened rates of respiratory ailments and depression. The H.I.A. identifies a 28% increase in nitrogen dioxide, which is associated with asthma in children. Noise and other quality-of-life issues also pose a community health concern, as drilling operations are proposed to occur day and night. Seniors, children, and people with existing medical conditions represent the populations most vulnerable to these health threats.

MYTH: The proposed drilling operation raises few safety concerns.

FACT: Nearly half of Hermosa Beach residents live within a half mile of the proposed drilling site. The project would have significant negative impacts on safety, aesthetics, odors, wildlife, water quality and noise.

Drilling would occur within 100 feet of homes, businesses, and widely used greenspace, which raises serious health and safety concerns. For comparison’s sake, homes, businesses, and schools in Dallas are protected from oil drilling by a 1,500-foot setback requirement. Oil drilling operations can also be dangerous and have caused blowouts and hazardous spills in other communities. The Environmental Impact Report asserts that the project would have significant unavoidable impacts in 9 areas: aesthetics, air quality (odors), biological resources (wildlife), water quality (spills into subsurface soils/or ocean through storm drains), land use (open and residential spaces), noise, recreation, safety and risk of upset (e.g. blowout during drilling). The project also has the potential to threaten the municipal water supply, exacerbate seismic instability, and cause subsidence (caving in or sinking of land from drilling activities).

MYTH: The drilling operations will not affect the aesthetics and livability of surrounding neighborhoods

FACT: The proposed slant drilling operation introduces a major industrial use that raises compatibility concerns with Hermosa Beach’s family-friendly and artistic community character.

Surfer covered in oilThe oil project would occur within 10 feet of heavily trafficked Valley Drive, and less than 100 feet from homes, businesses, and the Hermosa Valley Greenbelt. The 87-foot drill rig and associated 110-foot work over rig will introduce a visually dominant, industrial feature to the community of Hermosa Beach. And, although they will not be permanent features, E&B proposes to use them for drilling and redrilling efforts over the 35-year lifespan of the project. A 35-foot wall will permanently surround the site in attempt to buffer noise impacts. Additionally, traffic is a major community concern. E&B estimates an additional 10,500 miles of heavy truck traffic during the first 10 months of construction alone, and 32 truck trips daily during subsequent phases of the project.

MYTH: Los Angeles County already has numerous oil wells, so there is precedent of safe drilling in the region.

FACT: Although there are many oil wells throughout Los Angeles County, safety remains a concern with all forms of oil drilling in densely populated regions.

10,000-gallon crude oil spill in Atwater Village looked 'like a lake'On May 15, 2014, 10,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in Atwater Village, Glendale, when an above-ground pipeline burst, sending a geyser 20 to 50 feet into the air. In March, Wilmington had crude oil running down its residential streets due to a ruptured pipe. Communities elsewhere along the California coast, like Goleta and Carpinteria, have successfully fought slant-drilling proposals. Most recently, the City of Carson rejected a bid by Occidental Petroleum to drill within city limits. The proposed operation in Hermosa Beach poses great risk to the economic, environmental and community health of the Santa Monica Bay and the greater Los Angeles region. Allowing drilling to take place underneath the seafloor in Hermosa Beach would set a terrible precedent for future protection of Santa Monica Bay. It opens the door for further exploitation of one of our region’s greatest natural resources and recreational havens.


What can you do to prevent oil drilling from taking place in Santa Monica Bay?

Check out our Hermosa Activist’s Toolkit.

Looking for citations? Contact us.



Staff scientist Dana Roeber Murray provides an update on proposed oil drilling under the Hermosa Beach seafloor. She’s read the 1,000-page EIR and there’s much to be concerned about.

Imagine a sunny spring day on your favorite South Bay beach.  Maybe you’re playing volleyball on the warm sand, breathing in the salty sea air. You watch little shorebirds run along the shoreline as the waves ebb and flow. Your small children dig a moat in the sand.  It sounds like a typical beach day in Santa Monica Bay. We love this lifestyle. This is why we live in coastal Southern California.

Now picture a different type of day, after a community decision to allow oil drilling just a handful of blocks from the very same beach.

Ahhh … take a deep breath and inhale diesel exhaust and the nauseating aroma of oil hydrocarbons wafting in the air. Listen to the sound of your kid coughing as you walk about the neighborhood greenbelt trails, which sit just across from the new corporate oil drilling site in town. Now imagine the unthinkable  — an oil spill emanating from the supposedly safe facility. Inky, stinky, thick black oil runs down your street and into the storm drains that lead to the ocean.

This isn’t the stuff of fantasy. This nightmare scenario could well play out in Hermosa Beach if a controversial oil drilling plan is approved in the coming months.

The city is now reviewing an active proposal from E&B Oil to develop an onshore drilling and production facility that would access offshore oil reserves in Santa Monica Bay. Under a complex legal settlement, voters in Hermosa Beach will weigh in on a ballot measure to repeal an existing moratorium on oil drilling within city limits, likely this November.

Heal the Bay and a coalition of other environmental and community groups have spent the past few weeks reviewing a draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed slant drilling operation.The draft lays out numerous unavoidable and significant impacts to the community and environment, should the project go forward. Our staff scientists reviewed and prepared comments on the Biological Resources, Geological Resources/Soils, Water Quality, and Water Resources sections of the EIR in a 38-page letter.

Oil rigs line Huntington Beach by J. Baylor RobertsAt a recent Hermosa Beach city council meeting convened to discuss the draft EIR, a room packed with project opponents shared many of their concerns.

According to the draft EIR, there’s a 34% chance of an oil spill from the proposed facility pipelines. So an oil spill in Hermosa really isn’t a far off notion. In fact, the report states that “spills and ruptures from the installed Pipelines could result due to geologic hazards, mechanical failure, structural failure, corrosion, or human error during operations.”

You probably don’t need to be reminded about the impacts of an oil spill. We’re now remembering the 45th anniversary of the devastating Santa Barbara oil spill, which helped kick off California’s coastal environmental movement. More recently, wildlife still suffer from the disastrous effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and explosion disaster in Louisiana. History and experience tell us that the long-term impacts of oil spills are felt decades later. Significant, adverse effects on native species and habitats, whales ingesting toxins, pelicans smothered with oil, accumulation of oil toxins in the food chain for years to come … these are realistic possibilities.

Dozens of threats are identified in the draft. The words significant and unavoidable are routinely used throughout the report to describe the risks of the proposed drilling operation. Sure doesn’t sound safe to me.

Listening to speakers at the city council meeting, it became clear that the idea of this project makes many residents sick. If just the idea of this project makes people sick now, can you imagine how sick people may get living next door to a project like this?

We’ve heard many concerns from South Bay residents about the geologic stability under homes, streets, and community infrastructure if this project moves forward. Hermosa Beach is a geologically complex and seismically active region that is subject to earthquakes and potentially strong ground shaking. So seismically-induced soil collapse, onshore subsidence, and sinkholes could occur. The area proposed for drilling is underlain by loose dune sands and similarly loose fill material. According to the EIR, these soils would be subject to sloughing and caving during excavations and could potentially destabilize offsite structures located immediately to the north. The impacts are considered significant.

Activist in Hazmat suit at hearing Keep Hermosa Hermosa Campaign to Stop Oil DrillingWhat about our local water quality? As stated in the EIR, “although mitigation measures would reduce potential water quality impacts associated with a large spills, the residual impacts to water quality would remain significant and unavoidable, based on the severity of impacts.”  We’re talking about groundwater contamination, polluted oceans, and poor beach water quality. Is this really the vision for the South Bay? Is this our future? Our legacy to future generations?

The draft is 1,000+ pages filled with facts outlining the real environmental risks of oil drilling in a small beach community. I don’t expect most people to read it. It’s technical and very depressing.

But, you can rest assured that environmental scientists at Heal the Bay have gone over this EIR with a fine-toothed comb and are well-versed in the “significant” and “unavoidable” impacts associated with drilling along Santa Monica Bay. We are prepared to fight Big Oil along with our community and NGO partners and keep oil drilling out of our Bay.

The city of Hermosa Beach is expected to issue a final EIR later this summer, which will incorporate the feedback given at the public meeting and formal comments from stakeholders.  It’s still unclear exactly when voters in Hermosa will be asked whether they want to repeal the existing moratorium. We are still operating under the assumption it will be on November ballot. (Update: The election is now scheduled for March 3, 2015.)

In the meantime, please join the fight and make your voice heard. You can sign up for updates and action alerts from Heal the Bay on this topic. And please join hundreds of your fellow ocean lovers at Heal the Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand beach cleanup, to be held May 17. We will be asking participants to stand together in opposition to oil drilling anywhere in our Bay.



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

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

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

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



The Beach Report Card Summer Shades Contest

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

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

 

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

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

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

How-To Leave Feedback on the Beach Report Card App

 

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



In honor of the first Swimmable California Day, a few of us at Heal the Bay felt inspired to share our favorite beaches for swimming, surfing and kayaking because today we celebrate California’s healthy waters and the legislation we’ve enacted to protect them. Now go get in the ocean!

Bay Street, Tower 20

Bay Street is my go-to surf spot. It’s close to the Heal the Bay office, so I can get a quick morning surf session in before heading to work. Several Heal the Bay staffers call this break home, making it a great place to meet up and surf with friends. The waves aren’t the best in the bay, but I always have a blast when I’m out there in the water. It’s a good place to learn how to surf by riding the white wash, and the waves can get pretty gnarly and powerful so it teaches you how to navigate strong surf. It’s where I learned how to surf, and I’ll never forget the first time I made the drop on what was a HUGE wave for me – average for anyone else – and got totally stoked. Another thing I love about Bay Street is the historical significance it holds as the home break of Nick Gabaldon, a barrier breaker in the history of surfing. When I’m out in the water I imagine Nick putting his longboard in the water and starting his 12 mile journey north, paddling to ride the epic waves at Surfrider in Malibu (see below). You can find me out there practicing most mornings, working on my own journey, hoping someday to be good enough to surf alongside Sarah and other surfing greats at Surfrider! 🙂

 —  Ana Luisa Ahern, Interactive Campaigns Manager

Catalina Island

Slicing through the emerald green saltwater with my kayak paddle, I enjoy the expansive view of Catalina’s craggy island coastline. If I look closely, I might spot a grazing bison on the hills or a soaring bald eagle searching for fish. I beach my kayak along the narrow isthmus beach and head up towards the small SCUBA shop to check if my tanks are filled from this morning’s dives. I treasure my summer weeks at Catalina Island, diving right off our sailboat to be submerged within an underwater world filled with garibaldis, bat rays, and giant kelpfish. No sounds of cars, crowds, or sirens – just the ocean breathing, people laughing, and boats cutting through the water. Catalina Island’s isthmus is my favorite swimmable beach, and my little ocean paradise.

– Dana Roeber Murray, Marine and Coastal Scientist

Malibu

Some people seem a little shocked when they ask my favorite place to surf, and hear my response, “Malibu.” Malibu, Surfrider, 1st Point are all names for the long peeling right break just north of the Malibu Pier (pictured right). And, despite its water quality problems, it is my favorite wave, which I feel a little shame admitting as a scientist at Heal the Bay. During dry weather, Surfrider can score A’s on our Beach Report Card®, but during rainy weather or when Malibu Lagoon breaches, it’s not surprising to see it score F’s. Even with the crowds, I can’t get enough of the glassy long ride, whether it’s knee surf or overhead.

It’s too bad the questionable water quality haunts the minds of most surfers at Malibu, which is why California Swimmable Day is important – it reminds us that all beaches should be safe for swimming, and that clean-up efforts at dirty beaches need to be implemented to meet this goal. Sometimes it’s hard to stay out of the surf after a rain, especially with a nice storm swell, but the risk versus reward has to be weighed.

Some of my favorite spots near Malibu include: the veggie Farm Sandwich at John’s Garden, the refreshing smoothies at The Vitamin Barn, nighttime grunion runs on the beach during the spring and summer, catching a quiet sunrise over the Bay, spotting surfing dolphins (a rare but rewarding moment).

 –– Sarah Sikich

Science and Policy Director, Coastal Resources

Santa Monica Pier

I love summer time in SoCal for so many reasons.  One of my favorite reasons is the longer days.  More sun means more of a chance to swim before or after work.  One of my favorite spots to swim is to the south of the Santa Monica Pier, right near Tower 18 (the second tower south of the Pier).  It’s close enough for all the Pier amenities, and the long beach allows the waves to just roll in.  On a Thursday night, I can watch the opening act for the Twilight Concert Series as I body surf or boogie board.  With a backdrop of the sun setting behind the Santa Monica Mountains, those summer moments are hard to beat.     

— Tara Treiber, Education Director

Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach is my favorite beach to visit when I am in San Diego.  Torrey Pines offers everything you need to have a great beach day-good waves year round, beautiful natural environment, plentiful parking, and Mexican food within walking distance!  I love to surf and Torrey Pines always has waves.  I have been surfing here since I was a kid and whenever I am in San Diego, I try to surf Torrey Pines at least once because it reminds me of my childhood and I always seem to feel better off when I leave.

 —  Peter Shellenbarger, Science and Policy Analyst, Water Quality

 

On Saturday, July 27, 2013 LA Waterkeeper will host two events to celebrate! Bring your family for a fun day in the water!

Enter the California Coastalkeeper Alliance photo contest by uploading your favorite ocean action photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #SwimmableCA. CCKA will announce a grand prize winner on August 1, as well as top swimmable pet and youngster entries, and wettest photo.