No matter how hard the city works, one Santa Monica beach just can’t seem to stay clean.
The beach adjacent to the pier yet again was placed in the top 10 of Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer list. It claimed the sixth spot, up one place from seventh last year.
According to city officials and environmentalists, Santa Monica has worked tirelessly to improve the water quality, but it just doesn’t seem to be working. According to both the city and Heal the Bay, this seems to be due to the multitude of factors that cause pollution of the beach.
“Pollution sources here are a bit discreet,” said Heal the Bay Urban Programs Manager James Alamillo. “Historically pollution has come from a combination of storm drain runoff, bird feces, and activities in and around the pier.”
Storm drain runoff has been diverted to SMURRF¬†(Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility), a facility designed to treat stormwater. Bird netting has also been installed to prevent bird feces from contaminating the water, but the city has been experiencing problems with it.
“It is a constant challenge keeping the netting intact,” said Dean Kubani of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “Vandals frequently tear open the netting and that allows birds to get in. Last year the city hired a maintenance company to do weekly or bi-weekly inspections of the netting and make repairs when they find holes. However this remains an ongoing challenge to keep the netting completely intact and the birds out from under the Pier.”
Another possible source of pollution is bacteria that gathers in the sand under the pier. “UCLA and Heal the Bay did a study a few years ago that suggested that the conditions under the Pier, (constant moisture and no exposure to UV radiation from the sun) can allow bacteria to persist in the sand much longer than if it was in an area that was regularly exposed to sunlight,” said Kubani. “That would allow a high tide to draw bacteria from the sand into the near shore water possibly causing water quality impacts.” According to Alamillo, the city has attempted to remedy this problem by changing the contour of the beach under the pier to prevent pooling.
Activities in and around the pier also cause pollution, such as anglers dropping fish entrails into the ocean. Alamillo says that the city has added facilities for them to dispose of the guts responsibly, but often they don’t use them or don’t know how.
“A lot of resources are available,” he says. “We just need to educate people on how to use them correctly.”
Photo by Nicholas Salazar:¬†Pollution remains an issue at Santa Monica Pier beach.