DEC 14, 2019 2:28 PM PST

Toxic stormwater pollution in LA beaches

Stormwater pollution is a big problem for LA beaches, report researchers with Heal the Bay, a non-profit environmental organization in the area. Scientists say that although rain brings relief to many parts of California’s water-stricken lands, run-off from agricultural fields and particularly storm drainage is creating public health scares that should have everyone concerned.

Stormwater is sometimes overlooked even though it is the biggest source of pollutants in the area’s bodies of water. Rivers, lakes, and the ocean receive large amounts of pollution from stormwater run-off that hurt ecosystems and threaten our own public spaces, like the LA beaches. Unfortunately, say the authors of the report, LA isn’t paying enough attention to this problem and hence the situation has not much improved.

According to the report, after a significant rain hits LA country, the water quality for the region noticeably deteriorates for the following 72 hours. This happened so much so this past week that the precipitation and resulting drop in water quality on beaches triggered a health warning against swimming, surfing and playing in ocean waters around discharging storm drains, creeks and rivers. Officials are concerned about people getting stomach flus, and rashes, as well as other illnesses.

“Our beaches are a destination for people from all over the world,” said the lead author of the report, Annelisa Moe, who is a Heal the Bay water quality scientist. “While we’re allowing contaminated water to flow to these beaches, we’re endangering every person visiting. We need to be very careful about when and where we enter the water,” said Moe. “We can have a huge storm, and then the next day it can be sunny, 85F [29C] and gorgeous. If you don’t wait to swim … you’re at risk.”

Stormwater pollution is a major threat to ecosystems and public health in LA. Photo: Pixabay

The research group reported that in the LA area alone there are 208 bodies of water that are “impaired by multiple pollutants”, such as bacteria, heavy metals, nutrients, pesticides and trash. Upon analyzing the 12 local watershed management groups that manage these water bodies and have established pollution reduction plans, the researchers report that local municipalities have completed a mere 9% of their stormwater pollution reduction goals. Of these watershed groups, Heal the Bay says there has been “shockingly minimal progress in cleaning up LA’s stormwater.”

The authors of the report so that it’s time to stop waiting for better regulations and necessary to take action. “We need to step up clean-up efforts if we are to see water quality improvements in our lifetimes,” Moe wrote. “We should not have to wait 60 years for clean water.”

Sources: Heal the BayThe Guardian, LA Times

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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