11 Sep Water Quality Advisory for the LA River
As many may have read, Heal the Bay put out an advisory late last week regarding water quality in the LA River. The advisory urges the general public to ‘avoid the waters’ referencing water quality samples that indicated elevated levels of bacterial contamination in Sepulveda Basin and Glendale Narrows.
While we applaud Heal the Bay’s efforts to protect public health, we would like to make a few key points regarding water quality data for the LA River to avoid undue alarm from the public:
- Water-quality monitoring is based on an established REC-1 beneficial use standard (pg 2-22) for the LA River – a standard meant for protecting public health in bodies of water for swimming. While FoLAR maintains our goal of a swimmable river, there are decades-old legacies of concrete, channelization and urbanization that must be addressed before we can expect it to meet the same beneficial uses as our beaches. It is currently not legal to swim in the LA River.
- The LA River also carries a REC-2 designation, lower than REC-1, which allows for water recreational activities but not swimming. The LA River Watershed Monitoring Program and Heal the Bay’s own River Report Card have both demonstrated, despite fluctuations, the water quality in stretches of the River actually meet REC-1 or swimming standards.
- The latest samples were taken within days of Tropical Storm Lidia that brought torrential rains and pushed runoff and contamination into the LA River, causing a spike in the level of pollutants.
- A potentially exacerbating burden for the LA River was the devastating La Tuna fire which burned nearly 7,200 acres in the Verdugo Mountains, covering much of the watershed in a thin layer of ash ready to be washed down streets and storm drains.
- Kayak outfitters were informed the first weekend of September of a 72-hour closure of the River Recreation zone, a standard procedure to guard public health against rain events that knowingly impact water quality.
- As Heal the Bay mentions, it takes approximately 24-hours to get results from bacteria water-quality monitoring. This forces public notification programs to utilize data that is at best a day-old, limiting the ability to communicate real-time water quality risk to the public.
The LA River is without question degraded due to human activity from the life-giving waterway that birthed our City, and we have been working for decades to reclaim a portion of that past. By taking common-sense precautions and keeping informed about the ever-changing risks, we can continue to respect and appreciate the River’s promise. In short, the River remains a public resource for you to enjoy and for us all to protect and restore.
We are grateful for Heal the Bay’s advisory and its decades of work protecting public health and fostering ocean-stewardship. We look forward to working with all our partners to bring the essential benefits of a renewed river, one that is meaningfully connected to the communities that surround her.