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Public Health Issues Water Quality Advisory

Major rainfall leads to increase levels of bacteria in ocean

By Sam Catanzaro

Following major rainfall this week, Los Angeles County officials have issued a water quality advisory with elevated levels of bacteria in the ocean.

Following action by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) an Ocean Water Quality Rain Advisory has been declared for all Los Angeles County beaches. The advisory will be in effect at least until 7:00 am, Saturday, December 7, 2019. Beach users are cautioned to avoid water contact for at least 72 hours after significant rainfall. This advisory may be extended depending upon further rainfall.

“Bacteria levels can increase significantly during and after rainstorms, as contaminants within the runoff enters the ocean. Bacteria levels may remain elevated up to 3 days depending upon the intensity of the rain and the volume of runoff. Elevated bacteria levels in ocean water may cause illness, especially in children and the elderly. The Department of Public Health recommends that beach users avoid contact with ocean water for a period of 3 days after significant rainfall, especially near flowing storm drains, creeks and rivers,” Public Health said.

Contributing factors like water flow and currents impact how quickly beaches recover from pollutants in the water.

“Skin infections and rashes; eye, ear and nose infections; and gastrointestinal symptoms are some of the more common yet minor afflictions that can be picked up by surfing or swimming in the ocean after it rains. And there’s worse with MRSA, Vibrio and other life-threatening diseases that are possible to contract if exposed to human sewage in recreational waters,” said Katie Day, Staff Scientist for the Surfrider Foundation in an interview with the Santa Monica Mirror earlier this year. “Beaches near river and stormwater outfalls experience more severe stormwater pollution, as these areas border the immediate discharge areas for debris and pollution swept in from urban areas.”

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