Smoke on the Water

Current and former UNEP Executive Directors (seated).<br> Photo: Mark Gold

Current and previous UNEP Executive Directors (seated). Photo: Suzanne Biegel

Over the weekend, I went down to Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline. I didn’t see Zappa, but I did witness environmental history. For the first time ever, all five people who have served as executive directors of the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) attended the same event.

Maurice Strong, the founder and father of the Stockholm Conference and the Rio Earth Summit, is in Montreux. He’s joined by current director Achim Steiner, and past directors Klaus Topfer, Mostafa Tolba and Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

They are joined by a who’s who of UN environmental dignitaries to discuss the future of global environmental governance. With the Copenhagen climate change summit just around the corner in December, there’s an urgency to coming up with real, tangible recommendations to fix the ineffective, fractionalized system we have in place right now.

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Bagging a Win

plastic bagLast night, the Santa Monica City Council took statewide leadership on the single-use bag issue by opting to fund an EIR that needs to be completed if the city is to adopt its long-awaited ordinance to ban plastic bags and charge a fee for paper bags at retail outlets.

The measure has been stalled by a recent misguided court ruling that required cities’ to complete EIRs if they wanted to remove single-use bags from their borders.

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Something’s Fishy

California halibut is now on reduced consumption list because of contaminant levels

California halibut is now on reduced consumption list because of contaminant levels

The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) finally released its health advisory and safe eating guidelines for fish caught from coastal areas from Ventura Harbor south to the Dana Point area. The results do not bode well for those that regularly eat locally caught coastal fish.

The recommendations are based on a NOAA/EPA fish contamination study of DDT, PCB and mercury contaminant levels in fish collected over five years ago. The agency used some supplementary fish contamination data from Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and Los Angeles monitoring programs as well. 

DDT and PCB manufacturing was banned over 30 years ago, but there are still over 100 tons of DDT and PCBs contaminating the sediments off of the Palos Verdes coast.

Despite the fact that OEHHA unconscionably chose to set the cancer risk for fish consumption at 1 in 10,000 (1 in 100,000 to 1 in a million is the norm and those ranges are the risk levels used by EPA), the health recommendations are pretty far reaching. Continue reading

No Day at the Beach

L.A. County legal strategy puts swimmers at risk

L.A. County legal strategy puts swimmers at risk

This week, the State Water Board heard Los Angeles County’s appeal on the inclusion of enforceable beach water quality standards in the county’s stormwater permit.  The county appealed the permit despite the fact that the L.A. Regional Board modified the permit nearly three years ago and it has been relatively successful in getting a lot of beaches cleaned up of fecal pollution during the summer months.

The county’s dubious arguments stem from its challenge to putting enforceable numeric limits in the permit.  In the case of Santa Monica Bay, the limits are that every beach along the Bay must comply with fecal bacteria water quality standards 100% of the time from April through October.  Some beaches, like Santa Monica Pier, Dockweiler at Ballona Creek, and Malibu Surfrider exceed limits dozens of times each summer.

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Purgatory in Paradise

Welcome_to_Paradise_Cove_Malibu_signLast Friday, the Regional Water Board finally held the long overdue enforcement hearing on the chronic pollution problems at Paradise Cove.  At stake was a $1.6 million fine. The Kissel Co., owner of the mobile home park at the cove, has been violating the Clean Water Act for over 15 years with numerous raw sewage spills and nearly complete disdain for a series of Regional Board compliance assurance actions. In addition, the beach at Paradise Cove consistently ranks as one of the most chronically polluted in the state of California, and often receives an “F” on our annual Beach Report Card.

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Strange Adversaries

mlpa2_adjustedYesterday, I went to the Blue Ribbon Task Force hearing on the latest controversy under the Southern California deliberations of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). About 400 people attended the meeting at the LAX Airport Sheraton to battle it out on the issue of retaining a marine conservation proposal among the seven draft maps which currently exist in the negotiation process.

About 350 of the 400 people were sport or commercial fishermen. They were all wearing black, reminiscence of an afternoon in the Black Hole at a Raiders’ game.  Many wore MLPA shirts on which the acronym was spelled out as “Means Less Public Access.” I have to give props to the fishermen for their passion and their numbers.

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Fishing for Compliments

Heal the Bay's Oralla, center, with other honorees

Heal the Bay's Orrala, center, with other honorees

The U.S. Environmental Protections Agency recently honored the Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative by awarding the group its National Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.  Heal the Bay has been a member of the collaborative since its inception and our Pier Outreach Program has been one of the cornerstones of the effort to educate fish consumers in the Southland about the health risks of consuming DDT- and PCB-contaminated fish. The Pier Outreach Education Program, led by HtB staffers Frankie Orrala and James Alamillo, has educated more than 70,000 anglers at piers and jetties from Santa Monica to Long Beach on contaminated fish issues since 2002.

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