Chemicals in the Water

L.A. River Poor Water Quality Affects Public Use

November 9, 2016

It has been reported by the LA Times that the Los Angeles River and its recreation sites popular to the public, are contaminated with high levels of harmful bacteria. An environmental group called Heal the Bay began monitoring recreational areas along the L.A. River last year. Water samples were tested regularly at the Sepulveda Basin and Elysian Valley for three months until it was confirmed that harmful bacteria are present in the recreational zones along the river.

Heal the Bay says that the poor water quality could pose a health risk to people who swim or kayak in these areas.

What type of bacteria was found?

“Samples for Enterococcus, a type of fecal indicator bacteria, exceeded federal standards 100% of the time at Rattlesnake Park and Steelhead Park in Elysian Valley. The Rattlesnake Park site also suffered from a 67% exceedance rate for E. coli, the report said.”

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Experts say that the bacteria themselves are not harmful, but when humans come in contact with pathogenic bacteria they are at risk of getting ear infections, respiratory illnesses and gastrointestinal illness. Therefore, the public has been warned against swimming head below water, or with an opened wound, and if there is skin contact one should rinse with soap and water afterward.

“Much of the water in the L.A. River is treated and sanitized wastewater from the city of Los Angeles’ Tillman Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys. About 16 million gallons of water are cleaned there each day.”

What could have caused this poor water quality?

There are several contributors to the harmful bacteria found in recreational zones along the L.A. river, including:

  • urban runoff
  • leaks and flows from wastewater collection systems and failing septic systems
  • Other bacteria sources including pets, horses and human waste

What’s the next step?

Heal the Bay is enthused and determined to restore the Los Angeles River’s water quality to a healthful point that’s swimmable and can be enjoyed in countless ways by the public. Thank you Heal the Bay and the LA Times for the report.

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