While residents are concerned about the storm drain at Pico, it is not on the list of recently contaminated beaches.

Several Santa Monica beaches are under a warning from the County Department of Public Health for elevated bacteria levels but experts said the concerns are probably unrelated to a recent sewage discharge.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is cautioning residents who are planning to visit several Los Angeles County beaches near Dockweiler and El Segundo to be careful of swimming, surfing, and playing in ocean waters around discharging storm drains, creeks, and rivers.

No sewage is currently being discharged from the Hyperion plant into the ocean and ocean waters but the plant experienced an emergency discharge earlier this month. The discharge and failure to notify residents has triggered calls for more transparency around water quality in the area. 

“This catastrophic accident not only did great damage to our local beaches and water, but also undermined the public’s trust in their government’s ability to serve them and keep them safe,” said Los Angeles Controller Galperin. “Residents have the right to know exactly why the sewage spill happened, its impact on the area, the cost to taxpayers and what steps will be taken to prevent another similar incident in the future.”

Bacterial levels often fluctuate from day to day and can be impacted by recent rain events. Los Angeles experienced some monsoonal rain on Monday with about .12 inches falling in Downtown Los Angeles. 

Recent special ocean water sampling conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Tuesday July 27 determined that several beach areas near the Hyperion plant exceeded state standards for bacteria in water. These areas are under a watch until Friday.

Affected beach areas include: El Segundo Beach, Grand Avenue storm drain (Near Dockweiler Tower 60), Dockweiler State Beach, Ballona Creek (Near Dockweiler Tower 40), Culver Blvd storm drain, Hyperion Plant outfall, Imperial Highway storm drain (Dockweiler Tower 56), Westchester storm drain and World Way extension.

Other beaches also under advisory include: Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Montana Ave. storm drain at Santa Monica Beach (Santa Monica North Tower 8), Wilshire Bl. storm drain at Santa Monica Beach (Santa Monica North Tower 12), Temescal Canyon storm drain at Will Rogers State Beach and Avalon Beach at Catalina Island (50 feet east of the pier). 

These advisories are very likely due to day-to-day fluctuations in ocean water bacteria levels. At this time, there is no reason to suspect these increases in beach water bacteria are due to the recent sewage discharge at Hyperion.

“When rain falls, it drains off the streets, sidewalks, lawns, and parking lots into the storm drain system,” said Luke Ginger, a water quality scientist with Heal The Bay. “These storm drains discharge the rain water directly into the ocean untreated. It is a huge source of pollution at our beaches, and it’s why we advocate for storm water capture & reuse.”

While not on any of the warning lists, the area near the Pico-Kenter Storm Drain experienced flooding on Monday following the rain. 

The drain is managed by the County of Los Angeles and in the winter months, water is allowed to flow directly into the ocean. However, during the summer months, the County fills the channel. During rain, the City of Santa Monica has pumps to move water into its storage system but water can pool when quantities overwhelm the pumps.

“During the winter months, the county usually digs a channel from the storm drains out to the ocean with a backhoe, but those channels get filled in at the beginning of summer,” said Ginger. “That’s probably why they are pooling up. These pools in front of the storm drains are heavily polluted and people should stay away from them. We advise everyone going in the water to do so at least 100 yards upcoast or downcoast from the storm drain pools (even if they aren’t flowing into the ocean yet). Personally, I have seen a lot of parents let their kids play near these pools not knowing that they are dangerous. I think most people assume we have a better system for handling storm water – they don’t anticipate there being polluted ponds on the beach.”

Recorded information on beach conditions is available 24- hours a day on the County’s beach closure hotline: 1-800- 525-5662. Information is also available online at our website: PublicHealth.LACounty.gov/Beach/.