With millions of people flocking to Southern California beaches to cool off during a record hot summer, Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay released a list of beaches that violated federal clean water standards the week of July 31st to August 6th, potentially posing a health risk to beachgoers.
The beach near Santa Monica Pier, Topanga State Beach and the beach near Redondo Pier showed high levels of fecal bacteria in the water, three weeks after the July 15th deadline to enforce clean water standards at area beaches, according to the Heal the Bay report.
Sixteen beaches have violated the Clean Water Act since that time.
The worst repeat offenders, according to Heal the Bay, are Redondo Pier, Marie Canyon at Puerco Beach in Malibu and the Castlerock storm drain near Topanga Canyon, followed by Santa Monica Pier and Dockweiler State Beach at Ballona Creek in Playa del Rey.
A recent UCLA study showed that the healthcare costs of beachgoers getting ill from contaminated beach water ranges from $21 million to $51 million annually, according to the Heal the Bay.
Health officials estimate that up to 1.5 million swimmers and surfers get gastrointestinal illnesses (stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting) from bacterial pollution at beaches on 100 miles of shoreline in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
“This continues the trend of popular beaches that repeatedly exceed the new beach bacteria standards in violation of the Clean Water Act,” said Mark Gold, executive director of Heal the Bay. “We urge the coastal cities responsible and Los Angeles County to protect public health by immediately posting warning signs at the beaches, to come forward with plans to clean up these beaches and do everything possible to comply with the law as soon as possible.”
Beach water at 65 locations in Los Angeles County is monitored by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Environmental Monitoring Division and the Los Angeles County Sanitation District.
The following beaches were found to be in violation of the Clean Water Act:
n Topanga State Beach at Topanga Creek;
n Redondo Pier;
n Santa Monica Pier;
n Dockweiler State Beach at Ballona Creek;
n Cabrillo Beach, harbor-side in front of restrooms;
n Marie Canyon at Puerco Beach in Malibu;
n Castlerock storm drain near Topanga Canyon; and
n Sweetwater Canyon at Carbon Beach in Malibu.
Heal the Bay recommends that beachgoers check the Beach Report Card at www.healthebay .org before heading into the surf at their favorite beaches.
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board earlier decided to postpone a vote to adopt enforceable clean water standards at area beaches that would have taken effect July 15th, rescheduling it for a vote at the board’s September 14th meeting.
However, the water control board has begun sending letters to Los Angeles County and various cities that are violating pollution standards, asking them to identify the source of the pollution and provide other information within two weeks.
Failure to comply will result in a fine of $1,000 per day.
Originally scheduled for the board’s July 13th hearing and removed from the agenda two days prior, the motion would have required local cities and Los Angeles County to comply with new beach water quality standards every day during the summer months.
The new standards, called TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads), require beach waters and discharges from storm drains to be free from unhealthy levels of fecal bacteria.
The levels would apply to all Santa Monica Bay beaches from the Ventura County line south to Palos Verdes during dry weather between April and October when tens of millions of residents and tourists use the beaches.
In 1999, Heal the Bay, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper went to court to fight for and won water quality pollution limits for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
The beach bacteria limits for Santa Monica Bay were established in 2003.
Even with three years of lead time to the bacteria Total Maximum Daily Loads’ July 15th compliance deadline, Heal the Bay said many of Santa Monica Bay’s beaches still have elevated bacteria levels.
In order to be easily enforceable, Heal the Bay said bacteria pollution limits need to be incorporated into the Los Angeles County Storm Water permit by the regional water quality control board.