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.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health advises not to swim within 100 feet of a storm drain.
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.
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:
These recommendations by the state should be followed. EMD's tissue assessment data continues to support the findings of OEHHA.
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.
More about eating fish caught at Magic Johnson Lake
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.
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.
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.