Beach Water Quality in Southern California

It just so happens that three of the top ten worst beaches in California are two that I frequented in college and the third is an island 22 miles off the coast. The list is rounded out by LA County taking up half the list and San Diego, Orange, and San Francisco Counties only having one “dirty-ass beach”.

I found this report from Heal the Bay thanks to a tip from the LATimes.

These worst of the worst beaches are so named due to risk of “potential illness (to) include stomach flu, ear infection, respiratory infection, and major skin rash”. Which can result after only a one-time exposure on a single day. Going in the water more than once can “significantly increase” your chances.

The good news is that 90% of the beaches in California came in with a A or B grade. Only 13 beaches completely failed with an F. It seems that the majority of the dirty beaches problems arise only during wet weather. During dry conditions the grades are better with 92% scoring and A/B.

The report says that stormwater runoff is the major culprit. Which just so happens to be the place where kids like to play. I agree with the kids it is the ‘funnest’ place on the beach, if the waves are not hitting.

The worst place for this runoff turns out be Avalon Harbor which is 22 miles out in the ocean on Catalina Island. This seems counter-intuitive but the facts don’t lie, Avalon has been the worst beach in the state 9 out of the past 11 years.

Five others on the list from LA County including two of my old haunts the Santa Monica Pier and where Sunset Blvd hits PCH. Since the county is sorely in need of improvement it is good news to hear that the California budget foibles are minimally affecting LA’s programs.

A few quick other details about LA County. There were five sewage spills into county beaches, with the largest being larger than 100,000 gallons (into Lunada Bay). The county is the only county in the state to measure water quality at point zero, or pipe outlet, which allows for a more accurate picture of pollution. Most counties grab their data lower down the line after the pollution has been diluted.

Orange County, on the surface, appears to be doing well with 96% of its beaches making the grade (A/B). Only one beach, Poche Beach, getting a failing grade. However, during the few wet weather periods when measurements were taken only 42% of the beaches had A/B grades. The old advice is definitely still holding out “never go in the water after a rain”.

Also of note is Dana Point’s Baby Beach, a location that has been given a consistent failing grade in the past, will no longer be monitored.

As the county faces the same budget troubles as LA County they are making positive steps to improve. Which include unifying the county agencies responsible for monitoring the water quality, eliminating redundant measurements, and dropping consistently clean locations to focus on the dirtier spots.

Steps like these are needed to ensure that what’s happening in San Diego doesn’t spread to the rest of the state. San Diego County has seventeen sewage spills, a top worst beach, and has to continually deal with the pollution coming out of Tiajuana (the Tiajuana Slough).

Only time will tell how our beaches fare during the budget crisis, but the writing is clear. Counties are on their own. I guess so are beach goers…

Read the full report (84 pg PDF).

*all photos from the Heal the Bay full report*

Rant About Lazy Americans

So I posted this comment on twitter as robotchampion:

@gavinNewsom in San Francsico, signs first ever compost mandate, requires food scraps be gathered for composting. – http://tr.im/qeQJ

And got this response in Facebook:

“Nothing like building global harmony through state coercion!”

Now this gets me going. In my journeys through A Clean Life one thing keeps hitting me smack in the head. Our environmental problems come from us, the people.

You can’t blame the big companies anymore. You can’t blame the government anymore. There is nothing left to blame and that means we are the last to change. We are passively resisting a better world…why?

lazycatIf you look at Zero Waste initiatives around the country they do so much for every community. Starting with saving money for people, in the form of lower taxes or reduced trash costs. Then go onto time savings, producing so much trash takes effort. You have to open, trash it, and then carry out to the street. We take so many trips to empty our cans each week. Then we have to drag out a bin to the curb. Place bags in the trash cans.

Just think about it, break the habit and the routine. Save money, spend less time throwing things away, and yes make our communities a better place to live. In fact, the environmental benefits are enormous, effecting nearly every place you can go.

Then look at the Local Food movement. This is one of those insane topics. Overweight people who diet, workout, and spend money on diet foods and gyms, actually complain about the cost of local food. The number one most important thing you can do for your body is to have a solid diet. Local food is the diet you need and local fresh food is the perfect diet.

Yet we passively resist. Partly, I think, due to a mistaken belief in mass marketing. You know those commercials and brand labels that offer you the perfect chocolate snack with enriched vitamins and fortified minerals. Ya, believing in that marketing is like satisfying a thirst with one drop of water. You don’t think those companies plan on not filling you up. Why would they ever want you to get full?

The real value of that chocolate bar is minimal to your body, like one drop of water when you need a glass of water.

Cost. It’s a myth. Good food is cheap. Go to any store that sells local food and you will find cheap prices. The problem here is twofold. First, please don’t go to those places and try to buy macaroni and cheese. You will not find any 20 cent Ramen noodles here. Buy the food that they specialize in and you will find great prices. Don’t get angry at these kind of stores because apples are cheap and cheetos are 6$ a bag.

Second, you don’t understand food. Everything we eat is grown/raised somewhere. Then there is a harvest time when that food type is abundant. This seasonal food is cheap due to abundance, better for you because its so ripe, and completely fulfilling. They are glasses of water.

Americans don’t follow this pattern though. We eat whatever we want whenever we want. Most think this is ideal, but its not. The ideal is a fit healthy body that avoids the doctor’s office and occasionally partakes in non-seasonal food.

Wow, this rant is angry. It does show you why I’m all for a little state coercion. How else do you get people to change??

But hey now don’t take my word for it. Dig into the issues and you will find these words to be truth. Or, watch this video of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom:

“if they dont care about themselves, or their family, then its like second hand smoke it effects all of us”

Mandatory Compost in San Francisco (via marketplace)

KAI RYSSDAL

I don’t know how it works for you, but at my house anyway, it’s the blue garbage can for recycling, the green one for yard trimmings and the brown one for trash. Nothing though, for leftover food. Unless you’ve got a composting heap in your backyard, you throw scraps right in with the regular trash, no? Not so in San Francisco. The city wants to boost its already high recycling rate by making composting mandatory.

Why?

“to push the recycling rate to 75 percent or beyond.”

The Story

This is an interesting piece that highlights exactly why A Clean Life is getting started. The story hits on all the right notes: how introducing compost into the trash stream cuts costs. In fact, in most cases it cuts them in half. A huge savings that does not even touch on the environmental impact, which itself is huge.

Then it moves onto education. Of course, everyone wants to save money and the environment but nobody knows how to compost. The companies and business involved are doing their best, but learning a new method takes time.

Unfortunately, the city of San Francisco is doing two things wrong. They are not passing on the cost savings to the people and then fining folks for not composting correctly.

Definitely progress though. We will be following this closely and even contacting the folks involved.

Though, honestly, this story is partly a press release for Recology who recently changed their name and goals to capitalize on this new market. Still it shows that the money is there and in some cases so is the political motivation.

Check out the story..