May 30, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

State of the Bay Conference:

LYNNE BRONSTEIN, Mirror Contributing Writer

Every five years, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC) issues a “State of the Bay” report card. The 2010 report was introduced at the “State of the Bay” conference held at Loyola Marymount University on January 13.

In an overview of the report card at the opening assembly, Drs. Mas Dojiri of SMBRC and UCLA professor Richard Ambrose listed some notable accomplishments in the struggle to clean up the bay water and habitat: wastewater treatment; a decrease in mass emissions and an increase in biodiversity; safer swimming at local beaches (in dry weather); better monitoring of bacteria and pathogens in the water; more habitat protection and restoration; somewhat better control of trash. But more work is needed in all of these areas.

Following the report card session, attendees went to various “breakout sessions” where the sub-topics of the report were explored by environmental specialists.

In “TMDL and Water Quality,” panelists discussed ways to keep beach water clean. Renee Purdy of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board explained that TMDL (“total maximum daily load”) measurements have been in place in LA County since 2002 and have “been very effective” in improving beach water quality in dry weather. But as everyone who follows the Heal the Bay reports knows, many SM Bay beaches get poor grades in wet weather, when pollutants enter the ocean through storm drains.

Heal the Bay director Dr. Mark Gold spoke of continuing efforts to improve the wet-weather situation, but noted that “we haven’t done as good a job even in dry weather.” He is looking toward a solution in which the capture and infiltration of storm drain water can be seen and used as “a positive resource.”

Dean Kubani, Santa Monica’s Director of Sustainability, gave an overview of the measures that Santa Monica has been taking to control urban runoff and recycle the storm drain water. He mentioned the SMRFC facility near the Santa Monica Pier, the Bicknell Green Street Project, and the Beach Green Project, among other efforts “[But] this is really expensive,” he added, noting that the monies from parcel taxes provide some funding “but not nearly enough for the goals we have set.”

In “Contaminants of Emerging Concern,” scientists explained the chemicals that are being released into the bay water, with known and unknown results—mostly unknown at this point. “Treatment is expensive and sources are many,” said Joe Gully of Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County. There was more disquieting information from Doris Vidal of Southern California Coastal Water Research Project about pharmaceuticals such as Naproxen and Atenelol that have been found in significant measures in the tissues of fish taken from the Santa Monica Bay.

But inspiration and hope for a greener and cleaner future was present in the keynote address by Majora Carter. A native of the South Bronx, Carter told of her project to create a park around an almost-forgotten stream known as the Bronx River. The success of this greening of what had been a “slum area” led to her receiving a 2005 MacArthur Genius Grant, and is enabling her to go forward with a similar project in Detroit. Her story demonstrated what many of the breakout sessions had concluded: that concerted efforts by dedicated people can do a lot to bring us closer to a clean and safe environment.

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