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Climate and Environment

Cal State Long Beach Researchers To Study How Rising Sea Levels Could Affect Our Groundwater

The Pacific Ocean and a lone seagull in El Segundo. (Photo by Patricksmercy via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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As sea levels continue to rise, a team of researchers from Cal State Long Beach will begin investigating how this could affect the groundwater in inland Southern California communities.

Cal State Long Beach geology professor Ben Hagedorn and his team will use part of a $1.1 million award from the California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology (COAST) and California Sea Grant to study how a rising groundwater table caused by sea level rise could affect areas with potential underground contaminants — like septic tanks, or soil laden with industrial chemicals.

The two-year study aims to identify which communities could be most vulnerable to the contamination of the freshwater sources underneath them. Rising groundwater could seep into areas farther inland known to have contaminated soil, triggering the mobilization of toxic substances.

Communities like those along the polluted 710 Freeway corridor and along the L.A. River, or sites known to be used for hazardous waste storage, are of particular interest to Hagedorn.

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"We see many regions in coastal California where we have disadvantaged communities, where people are very vulnerable, they cannot afford water treatment, filtration systems," he said. "These people have no choice."

Using existing data, the team of researchers will narrow down up to two of these areas that will be studied over the next two years.