Two Los Angeles beaches are closed once again due to sewage spills: Will Rogers State Beach at Santa Monica Canyon storm drain (Chautauqua) in Pacific Palisades and Dockweiler State Beach at Ballona Creek in Playa del Rey. The closed section spans from 100 yards on either side from the point of discharge. In addition, warning signs have been posted at the Santa Monica beach at Wilshire Blvd. storm drain, spanning 50 yards on both sides of the drain. According to LAâ€™s Department of Health Ocean Water Monitoring Program, â€œA beach is closed anytime there is a known sewage or chemical spill impacting ocean waters. Water contact may cause someone to become ill. When a beach is closed, the Department of Public Health advises beach users to avoid all contact with ocean water in the closure area and where closure signs are posted.â€
The beaches of Santa Monica and other beaches have been consistently closed due to high bacteria counts and sewage spills. For such a nice part of LA, one would think the beaches here would be clean and safe for swimming. This same section of beach at Will Rogers State Beach was just closed on 01/19/07 for 4 days due to sewage spills. Dockweiler State Beach at Ballona Creek was also closed for 3 days on 08/08/06. Other beaches such as Santa Monica Beach at Montana Ave. drain, Surfriders Beach (breach only) and Malibu pier have also been closed due to spills. Year round swimming is a thing of the past in California.
As an ocean swimmer, water quality is the last thing I need to worry about. Far beyond the breakers, ocean temperature, visibility, swells, currents, jelly fish, manta rays, leopard sharks, and sea lions occupy my mind. Fleeting visions of myself starring in the leading role in Jaws VI dance in my head to the unforgettable two-note shark theme song (thanks Spielberg). Now I have to add E. coli to the list! Somehow the thought of unknown bacteria and viruses surreptitiously slipping into my orifices horrifies me more than an underwater battle with the revenge seeking great white.
Fortunately, there is an online daily report of beach water quality for southern California beachgoers. The non-profit environmental organization Heal the Bay believes, â€œThe public has the right to know the water quality of their favorite beaches.â€ Heal the Bayâ€™s Beach Report Card is a comprehensive water quality analysis of California beaches tabulated in grade A-F format. The higher the grade a beach receives, the lower the risk of illness to ocean users. For example, Will Rogers State Beach at Santa Monica storm drain has received 13 weekly Fâ€™s since 11/07/06 on dry weather data, i.e., not somewhere Iâ€™ll be swimming.
Iâ€™m equally shocked by and envious of my surfer friends that suit up and surf in this salty microbe fest without a care in the world. â€œIâ€™ll be all right,â€ announced with a smile and a pat on my shoulder to alleviate my concerns. Yes, ignorance is bliss. Apparently they didnâ€™t take Molecular Virology and Microbiology in college and therefore were left unharmed by the unspeakable horrors that were permanently branded in my psyche. Classes that may have been more appropriately named â€˜Human Invaders: a Horrific History of Infectious Diseaseâ€™ or â€˜Whatâ€™s Going to Kill You Nextâ€™ (lecture and lab).
Ignorance is bliss but it also may cause major skin rashes, ear infection, stomach flu, or upper respiratory infections. â€œWhen you swim in water with significant concentrations of these bacteria indicators, the potential for contracting illnesses increasesâ€ (Heal the Bay). Beaches that are adjacent to a flowing storm drain and that have 50,000 visitors annually are tested on a weekly basis for three specific bacteria indicators: total coliform, fecal coliform and enterococcus. These indicator bacteria are usually not the microorganisms that cause swimmers or surfers illness, however, their presence in significant concentrations indicates the existence of other pathogenic microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that do pose health risks. If state standards for bacterial indicators are exceeded, local health officials are required to post warnings or close the beach.
Ironically Venice beach has a better score card than Santa Monica beaches. There may be more visible trash on the beaches in Venice but the bacteria counts are lower. The stretch of beach from Santa Monica at Pico Blvd. drain to Venice beach at Topsail St. drain have grades of Aâ€™s and Bâ€™s (excluding Venice beach area at Brooks Ave. drain which currently has an F). Venice is where you will see me swimming.
Weâ€™ve come a long way since 1985 when the City of Los Angeles was dumping barely treated sewage into Santa Monica Bay. With the outcry of angry citizens, like Dorothy Green (founder of Heal the Bay), Heal the Bay joined the EPA in the lawsuit already pending against the City of Los Angeles. Because of these actions, the City consented to comply with the Clean Water Act. Since then the waters have seen the return of animal and plant life with the cleaner waters. Unfortunately, the battle is not over since we still see the warning and closure signs like the ones posted yesterday. Conveniently, we can check a website to find the safest beaches. The Beach Report Card should be used like the SPF rating in sunblock. Beachgoers should determine what they are comfortable with in terms of relative risk, and then make the necessary decisions to protect their health.
Up to date CA beach closures and/or warnings:
Weekly Beach Report Card grades for LA:
LA Dept. of Health beach advisories:
10 ways to help heal the bay:
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 E Jo
A fecal matter: LA beaches closed again due to sewage spills
Copyright © 2010 E Jo
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