Loading...
Skip to content

Environmental Monitoring

wpd_environmental monitoring_envtesting

ENVIRONMENTAL TESTING FOR THE WATERSHED PROTECTION PROGRAM

The City of Los Angeles monitors urban runoff pollution in four local watersheds–Los Angeles River, Ballona Creek, Dominguez Channel, and Santa Monica Bay. Each year, the program collects thousands of samples from open channels, the coastline and the ocean, conducting tens of thousands of analyses used to evaluate the impact of pollutants on the City's bodies of water.

The City of Los Angeles complies with mandates outlined in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Storm Water Permit (No. CAS004001), which includes working with stakeholders in the development and adoption of achievable Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations.

A TMDL is the amount of a specific pollutant, such as trash, bacteria or pesticides, that is allowable in specific water bodies likes rivers, creeks, lakes or the ocean but still achieves the beneficial uses designated for the water body. State and federal laws require the City TO comply with multiple TMDLs in all four of Los Angeles watersheds to protect the quality of our region's water resources. More about TMDLs

Environmental regulations mandate that test results be submitted to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). These data become available to interested parties through web portals, such as the California Integrated Water Quality System (CIWQS) and in the future California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN). Pictured is an LA Sanitation biologist collecting a sample from the Ballona Lagoon.
wpd_environmental monitoring_cimp

COORDINATED INTEGRATED MONITORING PLAN

During dry-weather, several storm drains that discharge into the Santa Monica Bay have their flows diverted to the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant (HWRP) through low-flow diversion structures. However, most stormwater is not treated before being discharged near the shoreline or the ocean; therefore, extensive monitoring is conducted to keep our waterways healthy.

There are four major watersheds within the City of Los Angeles jurisdiction. Each of the four watersheds is managed by a Coordinated Integrated Monitoring Plan (CIMP), consisting of different TMDLs for pollutants in seawater, freshwater, sediments, and seafood. Common sources of pollutants include motor oil, pet waste, yard trimmings, fertilizers, paint, litter, construction runoff, among others. Pollutants tested include heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fecal indicator bacteria, nutrients, and petroleum hydrocarbons. For a complete list visit the Los Angeles Regional Water Control Board website.

LA Sanitation's team of environmental compliance inspectors enforce the City's Stormwater Ordinance (LAMC 64.70) by conducting site visits to more than 10,000 businesses and commercial facilities annually, responding to and mitigating reports of illicit discharges and connections to the storm drain system, and overseeing the remediation efforts associated with abandoned hazardous waste and spills. Pictured are LA Sanitation biologists collecting water samples in Ballona Creek.
wpd_environmental monitoring_promo1
wpd_environmental monitoring_promo2

ENVIRONMENTAL SAMPLING AND ANALYSIS

wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp1
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp1
Wetlands sampling by LA Sanitation biologist.
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp2
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp2
LA Sanitation biologists sift material collected during field sampling of the Ballona Creek Wetlands.
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp3
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp3
LA Sanitation microbiologist viewing bacteria under a microscope.
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp4
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp4
LA Sanitation chemist tests samples for volatile organic compounds.
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp5
wpd_environmental monitoring_envsamp5
Sample filtration by an LA Sanitation chemist in the Wet Chemistry laboratory.

STORMWATER SAMPLES ARE TESTED BY LA SANITATION

wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_1
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_1
Wet Chemistry Testing
LA Sanitation Chemist using Imhoff cones to measure settleable solids.
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_2
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_2
Microbiology
LA Sanitation technician prepares media for microbiological testing.
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_3
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_3
Shoreline Bacteria Testing
Shoreline bacteria testing is conducted on a daily/weekly basis at Santa Monica Bay and LA Harbor beaches. More about beaches
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_4
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_4
Shoreline Bacteria Testing
LA Sanitation biologist collecting samples in the Los Angeles River.
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_5
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_5
Fish from Ballona Creek
LA Sanitation biologist collected a stripped mullet by hook-and-line from Ballona Creek for tissue contaminant analyses.
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_6
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_6
Fish from Ballona Creek
Fish tissue dissected for chemical analyses at LA Sanitation laboratory.
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_7
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_7
Field Sampling at Ballona Creek Estuary
LA Sanitation water biologists conducting a field survey of the Ballona Creek Estuary.
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_8
wpd_environmental monitoring_carousel b_8
Microbiology Testing
LA Sanitation microbiologist working in a field laboratory on board one of two City-owned monitoring vessels.
Downloads

FAQs

Q: Is it safe to swim in the water? If I swim close to a storm drain will I get sick?
A:

A number of epidemiological studies have shown that exposure to polluted bodies of water during recreational use is associated with diseases, such as gastroenteritis. Storm water and urban runoff are the biggest contributors of pollution and contamination to shoreline waters, especially during rainstorms. Runoff from storm drains can contain harmful pollutants such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Runoff originates as rain wash down from rooftops, watering from residential yards, commercial facilities, parking lots, street washings, and many other surfaces. Unlike wastewater, these flows are not treated prior to being discharged near the shoreline. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health advises not to swim within 100 feet of a storm drain.

Q: How far from a flowing storm drain is it safe to swim?
A:

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health advises not to swim within 100 feet of a storm drain.

Q: How soon can you go into the water after a rainstorm?
A:

Along with an increased volume of storm drain runoff during rainstorms, bacterial concentrations in runoff are also increased. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services advises no swimming or body contact in ocean waters until three days after a day of rain.

Q: Is it safe to eat fish caught in the coastal waters such as Santa Monica Bay, Ballona Creek, and Los Angeles Harbor?
A:

Most species of locally caught fish contain low levels of pollutants of concern and are safe to eat. However, a few species exceed the safe levels set by the State of California. The State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) makes the following recommendations for fish caught locally in Santa Monica Bay and around Los Angeles Harbor:

SoCal Advisory Chart Wunder

SoCal Advisory Wover

SoCal Advisory Map

These recommendations by the state should be followed. EMD's tissue assessment data continues to support the findings of OEHHA. 

Q: Is it safe to eat fresh water fish caught in Los Angeles’ lakes and rivers?
A:

When deciding whether to eat a fish caught in the fresh waters of Los Angeles it is important to know the type of fish and where it was caught. Some fish accumulate significantly more pollutants than others. So far, we have not identified fish from Balboa Lake with elevated pollutant levels. We have identified certain fish that should not be eaten when caught in the Los Angeles River, Hansen Lake, Legg Lakes, Peck Road Water Conservation Park, and Magic Johnson Lake. Some of these same fish when caught at Echo Park Lake or John Ford Lake can be eaten, but only in moderation (see the following studies).

In 2007, Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) conducted a fish study at four sites in the Glendale Narrows. Samples of carp, tilapia, black bull-head catfish, and green sunfish were taken to a private laboratory and tested for PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) and mercury (Hg). Although PCBs were detectable in fish tissues of carp and sunfish, the concentrations were low and ranged from “not detectable,” or less than <1.0 ppb, up to 17 ppb. These values are all below the detection limits used by the California Office for Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA) threshold for guidelines for the consumption of fish. Mercury levels in carp and sunfish were also low compared to OEHHA’s limits. More about fresh water fish at Friends of the Los Angeles River.

A fish study from the Los Angeles River Watershed was reported in the 2012 State of the Watershed report prepared by the Council for Watershed Health. Tissue from 96 fish were analyzed for mercury, selenium, total DDTs, and total PCBs. These fish had lower concentrations of mercury and comparable concentrations of selenium, DDTs, and PCBs compared to fish from other parts of California. Three fish species (tilapia, redear sunfish, and bluegill) did not exceed consumption thresholds during the four-year period. Largemouth bass and common carp caught in Hansen Lake, Legg Lakes, and Peck Road Water Conservation Park had elevated mercury concentrations to levels that should not be consumed by humans. Largemouth bass and common carp in Echo Park Lake, and John Ford Lake contained PCBs at concentrations suggesting that their consumption be limited to one or two meals per week.

Los Angeles County called for a study of chemical levels in fish from Magic Johnson Lake in the Willowbrook area of Los Angeles. The results from tests on 83 fish including bass, bluegill, carp, catfish, and trout showed the following: Bass had high mercury levels. Carp had high levels of PCBs. Bluegill, catfish, and trout had lower chemical levels. OEHHA used the information from these studies to decide how much fish from these lakes is safe to eat.

Fish from Magic Johnson lake resize

More about eating fish caught at Magic Johnson Lake

Q: Can I dump motor oil down the sewer or storm drain?
A:

No, it is illegal to dump motor oil down the sewer or storm drain. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the oil from a single oil change (1 gallon) can ruin the taste of a million gallons of drinking water. According to federal reports, used motor oil accounts for more than 40 percent of the total oil pollution of our nation's harbors and waterways. The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that used motor oil can contain toxic chemicals and contaminants such as benzene, lead, zinc, and cadmium; all which pose a serious health threat to humans, plants, and animals.

 

Motor oil never wears out. It just gets dirty and can be recycled, cleaned, and used again. Recycling used motor oil conserves a natural resource (petroleum) and is good for the environment too! Don’t throw your used oil down the sewer or in the trash, recycle it! Bring your non-contaminated used motor oil to one of our free Permanent Used Motor Oil Collection Centers or other available disposal outlets. When working on your car, it’s important to follow these environmental good housekeeping practices to keep your home, neighborhood and our local rivers, creeks and ocean pollutant free:

- Keep up car maintenance to reduce leakage of oil, antifreeze and other fluids.

- Recycle your used oil, oil filters, old batteries and unwanted fluids at a Los Angeles SAFE Center.

- When changing car fluids, use a drip pan to collect any spills. If a spill occurs, soak it up using an absorbent material such as kitty litter or sawdust and dispose of it properly.

- When changing your oil, use a clean container for used oil—don’t mix oil with other fluids.

Q: Why are storm drains and urban run-off such a problem for our beaches? What are the main causes of pollution in the Santa Monica Bay?
A:

Treatment plants no longer are the primary source of visible pollution, as was in the past. Stormwater remains the biggest contributor. Common pollutants found in stormwater include road runoff, pet waste, yard trimmings, pesticides, fertilizers, paint, litter, construction runoff, among others. Stormwater flows do not receive any treatment because of the sheer volume of runoff – tens of millions of gallons on even the driest day – from an area encompassing more than 1,000 square miles. Another contributor to coastal marine pollution is atmospheric deposition, which includes nitrogen compounds, sulfur compounds, mercury, pesticides, and other toxins.

Q: What is being done to prevent storm drain discharge-related pollution to the Santa Monica Bay?
A:

Stormwater and runoff are the biggest contributors of pollution and contamination to shoreline waters, especially during storms. As a result, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued a joint permit to several municipalities having watersheds that connect to Santa Monica Bay, including the City of Los Angeles, in order to reduce the amount of contamination flowing to the Santa Monica Bay. Results from the City’s monitoring efforts are used to track the effectiveness of the clean-up efforts as well as to help create the Beach Report Card. The City of Los Angeles is committed to protecting public health and improving the water quality of our coastal waters by:

- Installing pollution control devices throughout Los Angeles.

- Placing low-flow diversion structures into storm drains that direct portions of the dry-weather urban runoff to the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant that otherwise would flow directly into Santa Monica Bay.

- Implementing other measures including catch basin cleaning and public education programs.

- Engaging in cooperative efforts with other agencies such as sharing monitoring data with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, who then post warning signs at beaches when appropriate, and Heal the Bay to incorporate the data into its Beach report Card.

- Updating and improving shoreline monitoring programs.

Q: Besides treated sewage (effluent) and stormwater, are there any other sources of pollution to the Santa Monica Bay?
A: Yes, there are discharges from commercial and industrial facilities, as well as surface run-off that enters directly into Santa Monica Bay. Legacy pollution, i.e., historical deposits of pollutants, continues to be a significant source of contamination. For example, DDT and PCB, which were banned in 1972 when the Clean Water Act was passed, are still found in specific areas of Santa Monica Bay at levels that are harmful to human health and marine animals. A recent study conducted by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project revealed that aerial deposition of heavy metals has a significant adverse impact on the water quality in the Bay.