August 9, 2007

Big mystery solved

We'll say it again: Cars parked on the street during weekly (hopefully) street sweeping prevents the sweeper from clearing out the nasty stuff in the gutter that contributes to bacteria in the summer time runoff. Long Beach is just now starting to figure this out. When will they figure out that Lakewood (and other cities) are polluting the water in the San Gabriel River due to lousy street sweeping practices? LAAG could have figured this out for free.

Making waves
Long Beach is getting to the bottom of polluted beaches.
Article Launched: 08/08/2007 09:34:37 PM PDT

Long Beach Assistant City Manager Christine Shippey and health and water experts met with the editorial board earlier this week and delivered cautiously optimistic news: The city and county may have pinpointed some of the major sources of bacteria polluting Alamitos Bay.

This is potentially promising information about some of the city's most-polluted waters. Alamitos Bay bacteria levels have routinely exceeded state standards, leading the National Resources Defense Council and Heal the Bay to label some city beaches among the worst in the region.

One of the key sources of bacteria is now believed to be the Alamitos Bay Pump Station, which has been sending untreated storm water into the bay near the Leeway Sailing Center. Another pump station near the Bay Shore Avenue bridge at Second Street was also believed to be feeding runoff into the bay.

Storm pumps are not designed to treat water, only divert it to prevent flooding, which is not usually an issue in summer. But urban runoff and other sources that were supposed to be diverted were building up in the pipes and causing the county-owned pumps to kick in and do their jobs.

The water, which largely came from Long Beach-area sources, was circulating
throughout the Bay and over to Mother's and Bay Shore beaches. City health officials said in a follow-up interview that the pipes normally contain high levels of bacteria, which could be an additional source along with runoff.

Working with the county sanitation district, Supervisor Don Knabe and 3rd District Councilman Gary DeLong, the city and county diverted the waters into the storm drain system. A test this week showed Alamitos Bay water within state standards, but health officials are not ready to proclaim victory because they want to see a pattern of improvement. Water, as per state standards and funding levels, is tested weekly, not daily.

Other potential sources of pollution have also been investigated. The city has sent divers to examine boats for leaky lines and also looked at beach restrooms, illegal dumping and other likely sources. Shippey likens the effort to detective work and said the sleuthing will continue.

When asked about the breakwater's role in pollution, Shippey said the city doesn't yet know its impact on water quality, but the City Council has funded what is believed to be the first in a series of tests that may lead to answers. Another city official said the breakwater would not likely impact bacteria levels - only one type of pollution - in Alamitos Bay, but could play a role on other city beaches.

One could assume that wave action would cleanse the entire area, but that is not always the case. Water quality in sections of Huntington Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu - all places with sizeable waves - has been abysmal at times. That said, we believe that studies of the breakwater should go forward.

Other big sources of Long Beach pollution are better known, particularly runoff from the Los Angeles River, which snakes through 50 miles of concrete before emptying pollutants into the Long Beach harbor. There are also drought-like conditions that allow pollutants to build up on streets and sidewalks, animal waste and people hosing - instead of sweeping - their driveways.

One thing is clear: There are multiple sources of pollution, and the city isn't ruling out anything. The council recently created a task force to study water quality and ways to solve the problems.

For now, it looks like one major leak has been plugged.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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