By Alessandra LUCKEY, intern
Summer has arrived and families are starting to make trips to Southern California’s beautiful beaches. However, the Los Angeles County Beach Bus will be transporting passengers this summer to one of the lowest-ranked beaches based on water quality.
“Over the past three years, Beach Bus ridership has averaged 66 people per day, with about 3,000 enjoying the route every summer,” Mike Kaspar, an employee of the public relations group of the of the Los Angeles County Public Works, stated in an email.
Heal the Bay rated the water next to the Santa Monica Pier as an “F” in dry and wet weather conditions.
An environmental non-profit organization, Heal the Bay works to make the coastal waters of greater Los Angeles more safe and healthy. This organization publishes a beach report card annually and updates the grades every week.
Researchers take the data from
test samples of becach water and run them through an algorithm that determines the exceedances or frequencies of certain bacteria when compared to what the standard amount should be. From there points are assigned or taken away, James Alamillo, the urban programs manager, said when explaining the process for rating beaches.
There are many reasons for the low quality water that surrounds the pier.
When fishermen on the pier dump the guts of caught fish into the water, tourists feed the birds, or the restaurant pipes underneath the pier break and leak, it adds up and increases the pollution, Alamillo explained.
But the city has installed many measures in hopes of lessening the amount of pollution. Netting has been put in under the pier to prevent birds from entering the area below the pier, educational signage and cleaning stations have been installed for fishermen so that they can put the fish scraps in containers which will be transported into the sewage system instead of the water, Alamillo said.
The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Facility provides another benefit to the water quality by taking the runoff from urban streets away from the beach. While it normally treats runoff from the street, large rain storms can cause the system to overflow so it bypasses the facility and goes directly into the ocean.
Alamillo recommended that beach goers swim around 400 yards away from the pier or any area where water from the land flows into the ocean.
“Swimming at a farther distance away is going to be a bit safer than swimming right next to the potential source,” Alamillo said. “The reason for that is you have a lot more water that provides dilution to the potential pollution.”
Despite the low water quality directly adjacent to the pier, Kaspar said that the Beach Bus ridership is expected to be resilient.
“Santa Monica Beach is an iconic destination that draws visitors from all corners of the County and around the world. Connectivity with Metro’s new Expo Line, local restaurants, shopping and a wide variety of entertainment options should keep ridership going strong,” Kaspar said.
Beach goers can check the updated water quality ratings of beaches along the entire west coast of the United States each week at brc.healthebay.org.