The beach just south of Santa Monica Pier, and several other popular beaches on the stretch of coastline from the Ventura County line south to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, have failed to meet federal clean water standards on several periodic testings this summer, according to statistics compiled by the nonprofit environmental organization Heal the Bay, which reports that the hundreds of thousands of beachgoers that visit these areas face a potential health risk from exposure to ocean water contaminated by fecal bacteria. Since the July 15, 2006 deadline to enforce standards at area beaches under the federal Clean Water Act, 21 of the 65 beaches tested in Santa Monica Bay have been in violation at one time or another. A total of four beaches exceeded the standards in the past week, said Heal the Bay.
The monitoring is done at 65 locations in Los Angeles County by the LA County Department of Health Services, the City of LA’s Environmental Monitoring Division and the LA County Sanitation District.
“Almost 1/3 of the beaches tested in Santa Monica Bay have exceeded the new beach bacteria standards in violation of the Clean Water Act, demonstrating how widespread this problem is,” said Mark Gold, Executive Director of Heal the Bay. “We urge the coastal cities responsible and LA 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.”
The organization says that the worst repeat offenders are: Castlerock storm drain in Pacific Palisades; Marie Canyon at Puerco Beach in Malibu; Santa Monica Pier, south side of the Pier; Redondo Beach Pier, 100 yards south of the pier; and Dockweiler State Beach at Ballona Creek mouth.
In July, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) postponed a vote to, in effect, toughen enforcement of beach water quality standards beginning July 15 – a vote that would have required local cities and L.A. County to comply with new beach water quality standards every day during the summer months. The vote was rescheduled for the board’s September 14 meeting at the Metropolitan Water District in downtown Los Angeles. Last week, Governor Schwarzenegger expressed strong support for making the water quality standards more enforceable.
Despite the July postponement, the RWQCB has begun sending letters to LA County and various cities violating pollution standards, asking them to identify the source of the pollution and provide other information within two weeks. Failure to comply may result in a $1,000 per day fine.
The continuing struggle to heal the bay has been going on for years. In 1999, Heal the Bay, together with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Santa Monica Baykeeper, went to court and fought for – and won – water quality pollution limits in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The beach bacteria limits for Santa Monica Bay were established in 2003. Even with three years of lead time before the July 15 compliance deadline, many of Santa Monica Bay’s beaches still have elevated bacteria levels.
Heal the Bay recommends beachgoers check the Beach Report Card at www.healthebay.org before heading into the surf at their favorite beaches.