The Santa Monica Baykeeper recently completed its first post-rainfall “snapshot” of the Santa Monica Bay.

Twice a year, the Baykeeper conducts these so-called snapshots (one in the dry season and one in the wet season) to test and monitor the health and well-being of our local waters.

“The intent of the snapshot is to have every inch of coastline from Point Dume to Palos Verdes and portions of Ballona Creek and Escondido Creek monitored within a two-and-a-half-hour period,” indicated a prior Baykeeper report.

“Wet weather, particularly first flush, samplings are important because they provide valuable information about the types and amounts of pollutants that collect on our city streets over periods of dry weather,” the report said.

Now in its sixth consecutive year, the wet weather snapshot continues to provide the Baykeeper with valuable information and data that will be used for the upcoming detailed 2006 report on the Santa Monica Bay’s overall condition.

“When we started the snapshots, we knew the local waters were polluted,” said Angie Bera, program director and staff biologist.

“So rather than monitor the water quality in the ocean — knowing that it was already bad — we decided to try and tackle the source-storm drains and various discharges along our coast.

“We initially had volunteers go out and catalog all of the drains in the bay and were able to index all of them out there from Point Dume to Palos Verdes.”

Subsequent to recent rainfall, volunteers hit the beaches and took samples of water from drains that would later be tested for “indicator bacteria.”

The Baykeeper targets three types of these indicators: coliform, E. coli, and enterococcus, which are essentially bacteria that signal fecal matter is in the water or nearby areas.

If water samples carry an abundance of these bacteria, the Baykeeper said there is cause for concern and action.

This year, the organization found that there was indeed an “exceedance” of these contaminants in and around the storm drains and also in the Marina itself.

Baykeeper is concerned and hopeful that recreational boaters and the local marine-related businesses are mindful of the small and fragile space that the community shares.

“When it comes to boaters, unfortunately there is a lack of regulation on certain activities, particularly illegal dumping, not enough education about pump-out locations and how to use them, and little or no involvement by the Marina operators to encourage proper pumping out, like having an incentive program or better yet a penalty,” Bera said.

“This can all be done and better regulated if we think a little out of the box and stop saying there is nothing we can do about it,” Bera said.

Baykeeper volunteer Craig Edelman, who works the Marina beat and collected the samples for the recent snapshot, said:

“The water looked great, but I guess [the samples] turned out pretty bad,” referring to the poor results that the tests showed.

Edelman is also a member of the Dockwalker Program. He, like other Baykeeper volunteers, is committed to helping improve the quality of the local environment.

“I think it’s important that people get involved,” Edelman said. “For me personally, I’m doing it because I’d love to see these waters clean enough where you could actually dive or swim in them and feel okay about it.”

In March, the Baykeeper will publish its extensive study on the health of the bay and in the meantime, continue its multifaceted approach of environmental awareness and protection.

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