Santa Monica Bay, water quality and public health have been the major concerns of Mark Gold, the Executive Director of Heal The Bay (HTB).
“I was a loud mouthed planning student at UCLA in 1986. Dorothy Green, the founder of HTB, was a guest speaker and she asked for volunteers. I was working toward my Environmental Science and Engineering Doctorate at UCLA’s School of Public Health and I threw myself into fieldwork on public health, storm water pollution and sewage pollution issues. Dorothy then offered me the organization’s first paid job. Her amazing act of trust and faith set me on the path I have followed ever since. Dorothy became my role model, my mentor and the closest of friends.”
HTB became a constant driver of water quality improvement in the Santa Monica Bay and in California. California established criteria for water quality protections: requiring monitoring, public notification of water pollution and, most importantly, setting standards to protect public health.
The Federal Beach Act of 2000 followed the California model and both HTB and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) worked with EPA to implement the Act. HTB, NRDC and the Santa Monica Baykeeper have also worked with the State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards on regulations (called TMDLs) that set standards for reducing bacterial, pathogen and trash pollution of the beaches and ocean. “Due to the TMDLs, water quality, at local beaches, during the summer, is much cleaner than it was 5 years ago. Winter is a longer term success, as we clean up fecal bacteria and toxic metals, that’s the last piece of the puzzle in healing the Bay.”
Mark’s community contributions include his 18 years as Chair of the City
of Santa Monica Environmental Task Force. The Task Force has been the incubator for much of the important environmental work done in Santa Monica. The Green Building program, water conservation, storm water infiltration, and Measure V all started with the Environmental Task Force. “Being on the Task Force allowed me to learn from the people who are experts in green energy, sustainable building practices, sustainable landscape and climate change.”
Santa Monica is now working to implement green infrastructure that captures stormwater and infiltrates it back into the aquifer. “The Beach Green is a great example. People are always there, playing and picnicking and it keeps polluted water out of the Bay. The public loves the Beach Green. Bicknell Street is another example of green infrastructure that captures and infiltrates rain water, improves air and water quality, and provides habitat while fulfilling its basic use as a street. All Santa Monica streets should be green streets.”
“We have focused successfully on City policies and it is past time for us to tap into the energy and commitment of the residents and the business community. I went to SAMOHI; my son is going to SAMOHI. It’s great to be a part of a community for that long and I know the talent and resources that the community is ready to bring to environmental and sustainability issues.”
“Polluted runoff remains the largest source of pollution to our nation’s coastline. I was fortunate enough work on the first ever health effects study on swimmers at urban runoff contaminated beaches. We found that people who swam at runoff-contaminated beaches were far more likely to get stomach flu and upper respiratory illness. That epidemiology study was truly impact science – science that changes the way decision makers make decisions to protect public health and the environment,” Mark said during a commencement speech he delivered at UCLA urging the graduates to get involved.
“My experience at Heal the Bay has demonstrated that science combined with activism can have a beneficial impact. Yet, never in my lifetime, has there been greater American disdain for science with such tremendous potential local, national and global consequences.”