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Heal the Bay: Drastic Improvement in LB Beach Water Quality (93% A's & B's) During Summer Months, But...


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(May 24, 2012) -- Heal the Bay's Annual Beach Report Card -- based on levels of organic pollution (i.e. bacterial material including fecal matter in the water), not levels of inorganic (chemical and industrial) toxic pollutants (anywhere in CA) -- says Long Beach’s water quality overall "improved drastically (93% A and B grades) during summer dry weather this past year" (with 73% A's and B's during winter dry weather) but receives straight F's during wet weather (which it attributes to the L.A. river as major pollution source).

Among LB's significant improvements the group specifically notes the removal of Colorado Lagoon from its annual list of "beach bummers."

Long Beach City Hall swiftly issued a release (full text below) citing the improvements, quoting Mayor Foster and LB's two beach area Councilmembers, Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal and 3rd district Councilmember Gary DeLong.

Left column is summer-dry (April-Oct). Middle column is winter-dry (Nov-Mar). Right column is wet weather (year round):



Heal the Bay's report cautions: "...In 2010, the Regional Board approved the Los Angeles River Bacteria TMDL [Total Maximum Daily Load water discharge levels] which allows 25 years to comply with water quality standards in both dry and wet weather -- far too long for Long Beach residents and visitors to wait for clean water..."


Heal the Bay photo

Heal the Bay also explicitly recommends incorporating TMDL’s into all Storm Water Permits. "Incorporating numeric TMDL waste load allocations (WLAs) and associated compliance milestones and deadlines into all storm water permits (i.e. municipal, industrial, construction, general) is essential to ensure that TMDLs are easily enforceable." The group cites an upcoming September 2012 vote by the Los Angeles Regional Board on whether to include all L.A. County issued "Total Maximum Daily Load" (TMDL's) into the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. "It is critical that the TMDLs are immediately placed in the MS4 and compliance deadlines are enforced."


Heal the Bay photo

Heal the Bay's report has this to say about Long Beach water quality:

[Heal the Bay text] In 2010-2011, Long Beach’s Colorado Lagoon earned a spot on the Beach Bummer list due to consistently poor water quality. On March 16, 2010 the State Board allocated $1,799,803 towards the Colorado Lagoon Restoration Project.

On April 5, 2011, due to widespread sediment contamination, the State Board approved the city’s request for an additional $3.3 million from the Cleanup and Abatement Account. The primary goals of the project are to dredge and remove sediment and revegetate these portions of the lagoon with native plants. Dredging continues to be ongoing at this point. Overall, Long Beach’s water quality improved drastically (93% A and B grades) during summer dry weather this past year. Last year, only 27% of beaches received an A or B grade during that monitoring period. During winter dry weather 73% of beaches received A or B grades – 30% better than the five-year average of 43%...

Long Beach has made significant efforts to locate pollution sources and improve water quality.

Extensive studies throughout the city have demonstrated that the Los Angeles River, an enormous pollution source because of its 100-plus square mile drainage, is the predominant source of fecal bacteria to Long Beach waters.

Every monitoring location in Long Beach scored an F grade during wet weather this year and last year. This is the third year Long Beach continued to monitor 10 fewer sites due to cost cutting measures.

While the Los Angeles River will continue to be the major source of contamination for Long Beach beaches, the city’s investigations have resulted in the discovery and repair of leaking or disconnected sewage pump lines and improperly working storm drain diversions. The city has also implemented an innovative pilot technology to disinfect runoff in the storm drains...


...In 2010, the Regional Board approved the Los Angeles River Bacteria TMDL, which allows 25 years to comply with water quality standards in both dry and wet weather– far too long for Long Beach residents and visitors to wait for clean water...

Los Angeles River and Santa Clara River TMDLs

The Regional Board adopted two additional bacteria TMDLs in June 2010: the Santa Clara River Bacteria TMDL and the Los Angeles River Bacteria TMDL. Unfortunately, they both have very lengthy compliance timelines. The Santa Clara River Bacteria TMDL allows 17 years for final compliance. The Los Angeles River Bacteria TMDL splits up compliance timelines by river segments. No significant action is required for the first four years, and the final segments have 25 years to meet pollution limits for Los Angeles River after rain storm and normal winter-dry conditions both dry and wet weather, the longest ever in the region. As a result, Heal the Bay is concerned that Long Beach beaches will remain frequently unsafe for the next two decades because the Los Angeles River has been identified as a main source of their beach pollution.

Long Beach TMDL

On March 26, 2012, the USEPA and the Los Angeles Regional Board (“Regional Board established a Bacteria TMDL for Long Beach city beaches and the Los Angeles River Estuary. This is a great step towards restoring the health of Long Beach’s many chronically polluted beaches. This will also result in protecting the health of thousands of beachgoers who visit Long Beach beaches every year. However, Heal the Bay does not agree that final compliance deadlines should be consistent with lower reaches of the Los Angeles River Bacteria TMDL.

Long Beach beaches continue to be polluted by the Los Angeles River, a major source of beach water quality contamination. The City of Long Beach continues to work towards improving beach water quality, and has discovered and repaired several leaking or disconnected sewage pump lines and improperly working storm drain diversions. The city has also implemented an innovative pilot technology to disinfect runoff in the storm drains. Long Beach’s water quality will continue to be directly tied to rainfall amounts and runoff volumes from the Los Angeles River, however we are encouraged that a bacteria TMDL is finally in place, and look forward to seeing continued improvements in Long Beach’s beach water quality...

Among the recommendations in Heal the Bay's report:

4. Incorporate TMDL’s into all Storm Water Permits

Incorporating numeric TMDL waste load allocations (WLAs) and associated compliance milestones and deadlines into all storm water permits (i.e. municipal, industrial, construction, general) is essential to ensure that TMDLs are easily enforceable.

In September, the Los Angeles Regional Board will vote on whether to include all Los Angeles County issued TMDLs into the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. The Santa Monica Bay Beaches Bacteria TMDLs and Marina del Rey Bacteria TMDL had been included in the MS4. However, these were later removed from the permit due to an attorney error. It has been nearly a decade since these TMDLs were adopted, and dry weather compliance deadlines have passed. Thus, it is critical that the TMDLs are immediately placed in the MS4 and compliance deadlines are enforced.

Heal the Bay will be running a campaign this summer leading up to the September hearing that advocates strict compliance deadlines and numerical TMDLs for storm water dischargers. In addition other statewide storm water permits will be adopted later this year (Caltrans, Phase II MS4, and Industrial). Heal the Bay is advocating for TMDL WLAs and compliance deadlines to be included in all of these permits as well.

Heal the Bay's full report can be viewed here.

In response to Heal the Bay's report, the City of Long Beach issued the following release:

Recreational water quality in Long Beach continues to improve, as grades for city beaches "improved drastically" in the Heal the Bay 2012 Annual Beach Report Card.

"I’m proud to see our efforts to clean our coastal waters are paying off," said Mayor Bob Foster. "We created partnerships and implemented innovative technologies to tackle one of Southern California's biggest environmental challenges. We're not done yet, but our efforts have yielded some of our best scores ever -- Long Beach should be proud of that."

In 2011, 93 percent of the City’s beaches, earned "A" and "B" grades during the state-mandated testing period from April through October 2011. This was a significant improvement from last year where 27% of beaches receives As and Bs. Winter dry weather water quality also showed significant improvement this year, with 73% of Long Beach beaches receiving A or B grades, or 30 percentage points better than the five-year average of 43%.

"We’ve worked very hard to clean up the water at our beaches, and our improved water quality is leading to a healthier community and, thanks to more visitors, a healthier economy," said Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal, who represents the 2nd District.

The Heal the Bay Beach Report Card documents continued improvements in Long Beach water quality, and compliments the City on its continued perseverance and commitment to improving water quality.

"Overall, Long Beach’s water quality improved drastically (93% A and B grades) during summer dry weather this past year," according to the Heal the Bay report, which went on to state: "Long Beach has made significant efforts to locate pollution sources and improve water quality."

Five years ago, the 2007 Annual Report Card gave Long Beach just 12 percent A and B grades during the state-mandated testing period known as AB411, after the Assembly Bill that mandates water quality testing. That year, all testing sites at Colorado Lagoon received "F" grades.

The most significant improvement in water quality was realized at Colorado Lagoon, which received one A and one B, and due to the dramatic improvement in water quality has been removed from the Heal the Bay’s list of "Beach Bummers." Due to the City's continued efforts with all its partners, the Colorado Lagoon has experienced a transformational improvement in water quality.

"Cleaning up our waters has truly been a team effort, with excellent results," said Councilmember Gary DeLong, who represents the 3rd District. "I want to thank Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe and the Friends of Colorado Lagoon for all the work they’ve done to partner with the City in this endeavor. I’d also like to thank our State and Federal partners for all their support and assistance."

Last year the City completed significant storm drain improvements at Colorado Lagoon, including the construction of a low-flow diversion system that redirects urban runoff into the sanitary sewer system and trash traps at major storm drains. The City also cleaned accumulated sediment from the underground culvert that connects the lagoon to Marine Stadium, and constructed a vegetated bioswale to help naturally filter run-off.

Another benefit of these projects was the dramatic reduction in litter at Colorado Lagoon. Average counts of litter and debris decreased by 86 percent at the culvert trash rack and nearly 97 percent along the south shoreline.

Currently, the City is removing contaminated sediment from Colorado Lagoon, which will help to further improve water quality and restore the health of this critical wetland habitat and popular swimming beach. The removal of contaminated sediment is expected to be completed by July 2012.

The City of Long Beach has received approximately $16 million in grants to improve water quality at the Colorado Lagoon



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