Ask an LA native to take a dip off the beach in Santa Monica and expect a wrinkled frown. Yet, despite the local sentiment, the Santa Monica coastline offers some of the most pollution-free water in any major metropolitan area in the U.S. (at least when it’s not raining).
To make sure you avoid the shortcomings of Los Angeles swimming, here are a few tips to keep you in the cleanest currents.
5 Tips to healthy swimming
1. Don’t swim within 100 yards of flowing storm drains.
Storm drains deliver unhealthy levels of bacteria to the bay after rain. It’s not enough to just avoid the drains, instead avoid the risk completely by not swimming within 3 days of rain. Most drain pipes are covered over with sand during the summer months, offering a green light for safe summer swimming.
2. Don’t swim near creeks or rivers.
In Malibu surfers have been battling the state for years to clean up the bacteria running out of Malibu creek. The same goes for the Topanga creek, Zuma creek (north of Malibu), and Ballona Creek (affecting Playa Del Rey). Until they succeed, avoid all stream run-off.
3. Don’t swim in areas with no lifeguard on duty.
Though some unpatrolled beaches in Malibu and beyond are safe, many unpatrolled beaches in the LA city area are unsafe for swimming due to submerged rocks, pipelines, and other obstacles.
4. Steer clear of harbors.
Although local ordinances require large boats to empty human waste outside a 20 mile coastal limit, lazy live-aboard boaters often break this rule in both Redondo and Marina Del Rey harbors.
5. Watch the rain forecast.
Surfers, sea kayakers and other year-round watersport enthusiasts should attempt to keep their heads above water as much as possible during rainy winter months. Even one less dunk makes a difference.
Bonus Tip: Do earplugs make a difference?
According to lifeguards and doctors, the most common ailment associated with expose to bacteria-heavy water is ear infections. Earplugs keep water, and bacteria out of your ears where it belongs – buy a pair if breaking any of the above rules.
Grade the beach – how does your beach stand up?
Heal the bay has posted an on-line “Beach Report Card” for the Southern California coast from Santa Barbara County to Orange County. Visit http://www.healthebay.org/baymap/ to see how your beach fares. Beaches are graded on a standard A to F basis, based on biological pollution in water samples collected each week (tests exclude trash and toxins found at local beaches). For more information on the analysis methodology visit http://www.healthebay.org/beachreportmethod.asp.
Links to Fight the Pollution
*www.smbaykeeper.org is a community based, non-profit membership organization dedicated to restoring the quality of S.M. Bay, San Pedro Bay and adjacent coastal waters. Visit Baykeepers and learn what you can do.
*www.healthebay.org is a non-profit environmental group dedicated to making the Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters safe.