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Pollution Alert: Avoid the Beaches for 72 Hours

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Trash found near a Ballona Creek storm drain outlet | Photo via Heal the Bay

Trash found near a Ballona Creek storm drain outlet | Photo via Heal the Bay
This cool weather has brought Southern California its first significant rainfall after a long drought period and that means stay away from the beach water, says Heal the Bay. That's because the county's 2,800-mile storm drain system, which is meant to prevent local flooding on rainy days, also moves pollution into the Santa Monica and San Pedro bays.

"After heavy rains, more than 70 major outfalls in the Los Angeles basin spew manmade debris, animal waste, pesticides, automotive fluids and human-gastrointestinal viruses into the marine ecosystem. This pollution poses human health risks, harms marine life and dampens the tourist economy by littering shorelines," explained the non-profit in a news release. "Debris and toxins that have been accumulating for months on sidewalks, roadways and riverbeds and are now being washed into the storm drains. Exposure to this runoff can cause a variety of illnesses, most frequently stomach flu."

How pleasant. But think about these two examples: the L.A. County Department of Public Works estimates that the public drops nearly 1 million cigarette butts on the ground each month, and some 82,000 dog droppings are left without being cleaned up. Much of that eventually goes down a storm drain. Ocean-ho!

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It is recommended that beachgoers stay out of the water entirely for at least 72 hours. During dry months, swimmers should always stay about 100 yards away from flowing drains, where elevated levels of known carcinogens and pathogens have been found.