Necesitamos su ayuda para hacer responsables a los contaminadores y a sus aliados políticos.
Una reciente investigación del LA Times destapó que la corporación contaminadora Montrose no solo vertió medio millón de barriles con residuos contaminados con DDT en la bahía, el doble de lo estimado, sino que junto a agencias del gobierno escondieron el vertido cerca de la isla Catalina durante décadas, exponiendo a personas, animales y ecosistemas marinos enteros a uno de los compuestos químicos tóxicos más peligrosos que se ha hecho nunca.
Originalmente desarrollado como insecticida, el compuesto químico DDT es conocido hoy en día por su impacto en la salud y la destrucción del medioambiente. El DDT es especialmente devastador porque nunca desaparece. El productor de DDT más grande de los Estados Unidos, Montrose Chemical Corporation, tenía su base en Torrance entre 1947 y 1982. Y durante esa época vertieron cientos de toneladas de residuos tóxicos al océano en la zona de Palos Verdes. Fueron a juicio y terminaron pagando un acuerdo, y el área fue designada como superfund site (zonas contaminadas de Estados Unidos que requieren una respuesta de limpieza a largo plazo por contener contaminantes nocivos) por la EPA en 2000.
Décadas más tarde, nos enteramos de que la misma corporación contaminadora vertió cerca de la isla Catalina el DOBLE de DDT que se había estimado previamente, junto a otros compuestos tóxicos además. Nadie está rindiendo cuentas por ese medio millón de barriles que se están filtrando a nuestro suelo marino hoy en día.
Las agencias gubernamentales necesitan redoblar sus esfuerzos de una forma clara. No nos podemos escurrir de estos desastres del pasado. Y tampoco podemos ignorar los retos que suponen estos compuestos tóxicos para el presente y el futuro.
Las pruebas demuestran que el DDT ha entrado en la cadena alimenticia, afectando la salud de miles de personas que comen alimentos del mar procedentes de la bahía, y también está llevando a especies, como las águilas calvas, hacia la extinción. La comunidad científica y los expertos en salud están preocupados por el impacto a largo plazo de la bioacumulación de DDT en el océano.
LA no puede esperar otra década para lidiar con los compuestos tóxicos en nuestro océano. La crisis climática está acelerando la subida del nivel del mar y las temperaturas, que ya de por sí tienen un impacto suficientemente negativo en el océano y nuestras comunidades.
Heal the Bay está lista para embarcarse en otra batalla para proteger nuestro océano, hacer responsables a los contaminadores, y a mantener al público, especialmente a los pescadores locales y usuarios recreativos del agua, informados sobre los riesgos para la salud del legado tóxico de DDT en LA. Su contribución posibilita nuestra misión de mantener el agua limpia para todos. Done a Heal the Bay.
As the year comes to a close, we feel energized for what’s ahead. 2021 will not be business as usual. There is too much at stake. Now is our chance to take bold action for present and future generations.
Climate change must be slowed or much will be lost. Heal the Bay pushes government leaders to protect water and biodiversity from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Santa Monica Bay.
Clean water and safe, accessible open space are fundamental for public health. Heal the Bay fights for strong permits that require green solutions to our local pollution problems.
The toxic legacy of plastic production and waste impacts our everyday life. Heal the Bay supports a ban on disposables that harm our neighborhoods and wildlife habitats.
A better world is possible when we empower our youth. Heal the Bay gives students the tools to advocate for their future by testifying at hearings and writing letters to elected officials.
We must recover environmental policy rollbacks. Heal the Bay has the expertise to regain ocean, river, and wetland protections, and solve today’s problems by upholding the Clean Water Act.
We are living in a critical decade for our planet. The hard work in front of us won’t happen by itself. Your donation to Heal the Bay supports our mission of making the coastal waters and watersheds in Southern California safe, healthy, and clean through science, education, community action, and advocacy.
Amidst all the challenges, you can trust that Heal the Bay is here for good. We will not stop until we succeed.
Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, recaps a tough summer for water quality monitoring at LA County’s freshwater recreation areas, and outlines the urgent need for equitable, climate-resilient communities in the face of a health pandemic, extreme heat, unprecedented wildfires, and beyond.
Heal the Bay concludes another summer of freshwater sampling and monitoring with the River Report Card. Over the course of the summer of 2020, we provided inland water-goers with water quality grades for 27 freshwater recreation sites across Los Angeles County, California. This included 5 sites in Malibu Creek State Park and the LA River, where Heal the Bay staff collected water quality samples. We updated grades on a weekly basis and posted them online to be viewed by the public.
Summer 2020 was filled with many challenges that impacted our program. Due to COVID-19, Heal the Bay was unable to hire local college students to monitor water quality at recreation sites and storm drains like in previousyears. Instead, Heal the Bay’s permanent staff carried out water sampling. This was a major blow to our program because one of our main goals has always been to provide knowledge, skills, and career training to emerging professionals. Additionally, without a full crew, we sampled fewer recreation sites and storm drains, leaving the public with less information on how to stay safe.
We also had to take extra precautions while sampling – wearing masks at all times, driving in separate vehicles, and sporting extra protective gear (face shields and extra-long gloves) to reduce exposure to potentially contaminated water. These were necessary precautions because the research on the risk of contracting COVID-19 from recreational waters is still ongoing.
Photo by Alice Dison
There were also major changes in accessibility and use this summer at the sites Heal the Bay monitored. Malibu Creek State Park was open all summer, but the swimming holes (Rock Pool and Las Virgenes Creek) remained closed due to concerns over the ability to maintain proper physical distancing. However, this closure was not clearly enforced as we saw many swimmers throughout the summer. The official LA River recreation zones were open from Memorial Day until the end of September, but kayaking was not allowed due to safety concerns around COVID-19.
Monitoring efforts by LA Sanitation, Council for Watershed Health, and San Gabriel Regional Watershed Monitoring Program were impacted this summer as well. There were weeks where certain recreation sites in the Upper LA River Watershed and San Gabriel River Watershed were not monitored due to park closures or overcrowding concerns. According to LA Sanitation officials, Hermit Falls was not monitored this summer because it is a particularly crowded area that posed a health risk to the water quality monitors. Worker safety is incredibly important, as is the health of all Angelenos and visitors. Unfortunately, these tough decisions resulted in critical water quality information not being available at a very popular location all summer. LA Sanitation instead sampled the Vogel Flats picnic area, which is a new addition to the River Report Card. Toward the end of the summer, monitoring in the San Gabriel River Watershed and some of the Upper LA River Watershed was cut short due to the Bobcat Fire and the subsequent closure of Angeles National Forest.
This summer, the pandemic, a record setting wildfire season, and extreme heat culminated into one even larger public health crisis. The pandemic forced people to stay local and opt for close-by areas to take a swim. Because of this, as well as the reduced risk of contracting COVID-19 outdoors, people flocked in unusually high numbers to ocean beaches and freshwater recreation sites to stay active and cool. Unfortunately, if outdoor crowds become too big and dense, there is an increased risk of COVID-19 spread. The fact that so many people sought respite outside made clear the importance of open space for physical and mental health. But, the benefits of open space are not equally experienced by all. Black and Latinx communities have been systemically denied access to parks and nature, and there is a lot of work to do to provide justice for these communities. LA City and County must work hard to meet their target of 65% of Angelenos living within half a mile of a park or open space by 2025 (and 75% by 2035).
Photo by Alice Dison
The summer’s extreme heat waves coincided with the largest wildfires in California’s history, which created harmful air quality across the entire west coast. Many people endured hazardous outdoor air quality in order to cool off at rivers, streams, and beaches. Tragically, exposure to wildfire-induced poor air quality exacerbates the harmful health effects of COVID-19. So for low-income households without air conditioning, it was impossible to escape harm; people were either subject to extreme heat at home or subject to harmful air quality outside. We must acknowledge that in the United States, the communities facing the brunt of climate change impacts like extreme heat and wildfire are disproportionately Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian people.
Summer 2020 was a tough time for many, and it underscores the need for immediate and equitable action to address the climate crisis and environmental justice.
Looking forward, Heal the Bay will continue to advocate for water quality improvements across LA County, so everyone is protected from waterborne illness. And, we will continue to push for nature-based policies that stem the impacts of climate change and make our communities climate resilient.
Summer 2020 Results
Here are the water quality results from the sites Heal the Bay monitored during summer 2020.
Malibu Creek State Park
Rock Pool – did slightly better than last year
Las Virgenes Creek – worse than last year
Los Angeles River
Sepulveda Basin at Burbank Ave. – slightly better than last year
Heal the Bay’s Communications team sat down with Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO and discussed her reaction to the in-depth story in the Los Angeles Times uncovering DDT dumping near Catalina that happened more than three decades ago.
I am shocked. We know about the superfund site off of Palos Verdes. We worked on the scientific and legal investigations in the 1980s and 1990s. We supported U.S. and state agencies in their lawsuit againstMontrose Chemical Corporation and three other companies, which was finally settled in 2001. Heal the Bay helped create the Angler Outreach Program to inform local subsistence anglers about the toxic waste that contaminates the fish they are catching to feed their families.
But these thousands of barrels of DDT dumped near Catalina were not part of the discussion.
It took years to negotiate the cleanup requirements for the Palos Verdes site. It’s just unfathomable the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State Water Board all knew about the additional contamination and did not make that part of the cleanup and mitigation requirements.
The impacts of half a million barrels of leaking DDT are far-reaching.
DDT is an especially devastating chemical because it never goes away. It gets into ocean animals and concentrates as it moves up the food chain. It harms untold numbers of fish, marine mammals, and birds, as well as people in especially vulnerable communities – people fishing to feed their families.
And in this time of climate change, this DDT dumped in the waters off Catalina is yet another blow to our ocean. Oceans are already stressedfrom warming and acidification, as well as overfishing and pollution from products like plastics, that never biodegrade or leave the environment.
How can we hold polluters accountable?
It’s so hard. Sometimes as nonprofits we have to fight unethical corporations and our own governments. Today we’re talking about DDT from Montrose Chemical Corporation. Last month we saw Exide Technologies, Inc.was allowed to walk away from the toxic lead and arsenic mess they created for three decades near 110,000+ residents in East LA, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Vernon, Cudahy, Maywood, Bell, and Huntington. 1 Support East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice in the fight to hold Exide accountable.
Corporations can leave. Government officials can leave. But our communities stay.
This DDT was dumped decades ago and a settlement for a portion of the pollution was already reached. Now we will fight again to hold these polluters accountable.We will start by asking the EPA, DOJ, Coastal Commission, and the State Water Board what jurisdiction they have to bring further claims against the parties responsible for the DDT dumping, and by collaborating with agencies who show they want to fix this problem. We demand solutions and will take action to reach them.
What more needs to be done to protect communities and habitats?
In addition to legal action, here are three things we must do:
We need a lot more education for people who rely on fish they catch to feed their families. Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program is the model: we reach the most vulnerable people, in their own languages, and in places where they feel comfortable receiving this information.
We need more frequent and extensive monitoring of sediment and fish, to track contamination that can harm animals and the people who eat them. Every five years is not enough; we need detailed assessments to understand what is happening to the DDT that is out there.
We must find a way to clean up the DDT and PCBs in our ocean. We know the pilot project to cap the Palos Verdes site was not a success, but that does not mean we walk away. The EPA, NOAA, and other agencies must convene the experts who can come up with the next step and the next, until we find a way to deal with this toxic legacy.
Tell us what you think should be done. Contact Us.
A day at the beach should not make anyone sick. That’s why health officials across the state sample water at the beach weekly during the summer. And when officials detect high levels of bacteria, they issue a public health advisory.
The good news: by measuring the amount of bacteria in the water and sharing information with the public in real time, we can help you decide when and where it’s safest to go to the beach. Plus, it raises awareness about ocean pollution and brings much-needed attention to solving systemic waste and runoff issues.
The bad news: weekly samples aren’t enough. Water quality can fluctuate drastically from day to day, with real implications for people’s health. Heal the Bay believes that we need daily samples in order to better protect public health. In 2015, we launched our NowCast program within the Beach Report Card. NowCast supplements the weekly grades provided by public health officials by bringing accurate daily predictions to the public.
NowCast is able to predict concentrations of bacteria in the water on a daily basis, filling in the time gap of weekly bacteria sampling. NowCast consists of computer models that examine correlations between environmental conditions (such as temperature and tide) and historical bacteria concentrations. Our models then predict how much bacteria could be present in the water given the current local conditions at the beach.
NowCast predictions appear on the Beach Report Card with the symbols seen below. A Blue “W+” symbol indicates that there is a low risk of illness by coming in contact with the water, and a Red “W-” symbol indicates that there is a high risk of illness by coming in contact with the water.
Good Water Quality
Poor Water Quality
Head to beachreportcard.org to find daily predictions for over 25 beaches across California. Or download the free app on your iOS or Android device to get daily predictions on-the-go.
List of Beaches With Daily NowCast Water Quality Predictions
Ocean Beach (Balboa St.), San Francisco
Ocean Beach (Lincoln Way), San Francisco
Candlestick Point (Windsurfer Circle), San Francisco – NEW
Main Beach (Boardwalk), Santa Cruz County
Leo Carrillo, Los Angeles County – NEW
Will Rogers (Temescal Canyon), Los Angeles County
Will Rogers (Santa Monica Canyon), Los Angeles County
Santa Monica (Pico Ave.), Los Angeles County – NEW
Venice Beach Pier, Los Angeles County
Dockweiler/Toes Beach, Los Angeles County
El Porto, Los Angeles County – NEW
Manhattan Beach (28th St.), Los Angeles County
Hermosa Beach Pier, Los Angeles County – NEW
Redondo Breakwater, Los Angeles County
Redondo Beach Pier, Los Angeles County
Torrance Beach (Avenue I), Los Angeles County – NEW
Long Beach (72nd Place), Los Angeles County
Seal Beach (1st), Orange County – NEW
Seal Beach Pier, Orange County
Huntington Beach (Brookhurst St.), Orange County
Newport Beach (52nd), Orange County – NEW
Newport Beach (38th), Orange County
Aliso Creek Outlet, Orange County – NEW
Monarch Beach (Salt Creek Outlet), Orange County – NEW
Doheny State Beach, Orange County
San Clemente Pier (Lifeguard Tower), Orange County
Don’t see your beach on the map? We’re working on it! Predicting water quality is complex and we want to make sure we get it right. This means we need access to a myriad of data sources in order to make accurate predictions, and when data are not readily available, we can’t make the prediction.
If you’re looking to help monitor and improve the water quality at your favorite beach spots, here’s a few things you can do:
Advocate at town halls and city council meetings for increased funding toward ocean and environmental data observation, collection, standardization, and analysis programs.
Support Heal the Bay’s staff scientists efforts to expand monitoring programs and directly fund our work.
Stay informed about your local water quality and reach out to your representatives in California demanding improvements be made to protect public health and our natural environment.
If you can’t find daily NowCast predictions in your area, you can still see the latest water quality grades issued to over 500 beaches on the Beach Report Card Website. In the meantime, we are working to improve and expand the NowCast system so check back frequently to see if your favorite beach has water quality predictions.
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, andPOPs do not prevent locally–caught 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 byfrontline communities, which are comprised largely ofBIPOC 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 LA County 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 DDTand PCBs were released into the ocean off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. While 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 POPsare 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 them, otherwise known as bioaccumulation. In 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 higherconcentrations of POPs entering the food chain.
Fish mainly absorb POPs from sediment. Bottom feeding fish stir up sediment to find food, absorbing POPsthrough their food and digestive tracts as well as their gills. Once inside the body,POPs dissolve into the fish’s fat for long-term storage.Normal fat storesin fish (and in humans) arelocated in the liver and the subcutaneous fat, which isthe 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 isrecommended 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 themunicipal sperate storm sewer system (MS4)permit,could be strong enough to enforce and reduce local pollutionvia the regulation of industrial discharge of wastewater into storm drains. Arecent supreme court decisionreinforcedMS4 permit regulatory standards.
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 yuso 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.
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!
On March 26, in response to lobbying from the oil and gas industry, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced rollbacks on enforcement of regulations during the COVID-19 response. These rollbacks put public health at risk by letting industries off the hook for their legal requirements to control their pollution. Communities that are already disproportionately burdened by pollution, including the unsheltered and low-income communities of color, are the ones who will be hit hardest. The government’s response to a pandemic should not upend its commitment to address other, longstanding threats to public health.
It is clear that COVID-19 is having major impacts on all sectors, from individuals to small mom-and-pop businesses to large factories. There may be cases when a relaxation in requirements is acceptable to help those businesses, but to cease oversight altogether is not the answer. Blanket exemptions cannot be tolerated, because doing so puts people’s health further at risk, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most likely to be impacted by COVID-19. Any regulatory flexibility must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Now is not the time for blanket rollbacks of environmental regulations. The administration’s recent actions to rollback regulations on car fuel standards as well as water and air pollution are unconscionable and only take advantage of this terrible pandemic at the expense of public health.
What do the EPA rollbacks mean?
We have seen dozens of piecemeal rollbacks during this current administration. Now the EPA has released a memorandum announcing across-the-board rollbacks on enforcement of regulations that protect public health and natural resources, including clean water. It applies to any facility regulated by the EPA including private industries that discharge polluted water, as well as essential services including drinking water or wastewater treatment facilities.
The memorandum states that COVID-19 “may affect the ability of an operation to meet enforceable limitations on air emissions and water discharges, requirements for the management of hazardous waste, or requirements to ensure and provide safe drinking water.” The memorandum encourages facilities to report instances of non-compliance that may create an acute risk to human health or the environment. But encouragement is not enough – these occurrences must be reported immediately and publicly so that people are aware of the increased risks to their health.
Additionally, the EPA will no longer penalize violations of routine monitoring and other obligations. Monitoring and record keeping are fundamental to addressing pollution – knowing which contaminants (and how much) are discharged into our waterways allows us to prioritize public health issues and demand plans to address the pollution.
Here in California, state laws like the Porter-Cologne Act protect public health and the environment by creating a strong backstop to prevent environmental rollbacks; however, this federal non-compliance policy creates enormous pressure for state agencies to follow suit.
The California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) announced back on March 20 that the “timely compliance by the regulated community with all Water Board orders and other requirements… is generally considered to be an essential function during the COVID-19 response.” However, they are reviewing requests to roll back protective measures related to water here in California, on a case-by-case basis. We are counting on the State Water Board to uphold environmental and public health protections, and provide leniency only when it is in the public interest.
What are people doing about these rollbacks?
As we all know, WATER IS LIFE. Particularly now, as we respond to COVID-19, we must ensure reliable access to safe and clean water, to protect the health of people and the natural resources on which we depend. Therefore, advocacy groups across the country have been fighting these rollbacks since they were first announced.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of environmental justice, climate justice, and public interest advocacy groups filed a Petition for Emergency Rulemaking in response to this reckless non-enforcement policy, stating that any facility that stops monitoring and reporting their pollution must notify the EPA, to be publicly posted within one day.
Dozens of California based environmental groups (including Heal the Bay) sent a letter to Governor Newsom and many other state officials, urging them to remain committed to prioritizing public health and the availability of safe and clean water for all Californians.
Heal the Bay is urging the EPA and the State Water Board to uphold environmental regulations that protect public and environmental health, and to give leniency only when it is truly necessary and does not jeopardize public health. We also demand transparency so that any requests approved by the State Water Board are publicly noticed so the public can protect themselves and groups like Heal the Bay can continue to watchdog the decision-making process.
uphold environmental regulations to protect public and environmental health,
only give leniency when it is necessary and does not jeopardize public health, and
ensure transparency so the public can know when any leniency is given.
Join the Center for Biological Diversity to fight the federal rollback by sending in your own comment letter directly to Andrew Wheeler (The Administrator of the EPA), or submit a letter to the editor of your local paper.
Even though it is raining (and snowing) this week across the region, this season’s California snowpack is still well below the historical average for the start of April. Millions of Californians rely on this critical source of water for drinking and irrigation. A small snowpack points to the urgent need for us to conserve and reuse local water. Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay President and CEO, shares what was top of mind before the COVID-19 response, and why we can’t lose sight of our water.
At the end of last year, I was high up in the mountains with family and friends. We spent our time playing outside, laughing for hours and sledding on a snowy hillside. When I caught my breath, I took cold air deeply into my lungs. The mountain air felt so fresh. There was no wind, and the tall trees on either side of our sledding hill were perfectly still except for the bounding echoes of our joyful voices. It was a beautiful moment.
At the bottom of the hill the dark brown earth, which smelled of moss and mud, peeked through the white snow. I heard the sound of running water and looked closer: there was a stream of clear water flowing down through the tiny meadow toward the road. And I was struck: this is our water. This is Sierra snowmelt. This is the backbone, the source of drinking and irrigation water for millions of people in California. First seeping through a meadow that holds water like a sponge, then emerging as a trickle that builds to a stream that meets others to form a river that supplies a farm or a city. This is our water. And it’s in danger.
Far away on the coast people are drinking, cooking and showering with this very water. This very water is being washed down a drain, through a pipe to a treatment plant and then pushed out to sea. So much energy expended to take this very water from the mountains and valleys it nourishes, down to our homes and businesses in Los Angeles, to filter our waste out of it, to send it into the ocean and then to keep taking more and more every day of our lives. All of this is happening while the climate changes and the snowpack, that backbone, is diminishing and its future is in question.
However, we are changing this wasteful system. In 2019 Mayor Garcetti announced a plan to reuse all the water from our City’s treatment plants. That’s millions of gallons a day of water that will get reused here in LA, so we can stop draining it from our mountain streams. This is proof: we can adapt to climate change by changing a wasteful, linear process to a sustainable, circular system that supports people and nature.
This was our greatest victory last year and the culmination of decades of hard work. We have much more to do in this uncertain climate to protect our water and the awe-inspiring life it nourishes. Together, let’s take action. In the year ahead, we need to sound the alarm on the climate crisis, we need to enact strong science-based policies, and we need to remember the earthly moments that move our hearts and embolden us to take on new challenges with compassion and fortitude.
I look forward to working alongside you in 2020 as Heal the Bay celebrates its 35th anniversary! Thank you for continuing on this epic journey with us.
Dr. Shelley Luce President and CEO
This article was originally published in Heal the Bay’s 2019 Annual Report in February 2020.