Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Citing health concerns, State Parks has put the kibosh on the notion of creating a dog beach in Santa Monica. Photo courtesy of OC Weekly.

In Santa Monica, there are two environmental issues that seem to come up every five years like clockwork: fluoridation of drinking water and dog beaches.  A few weeks ago, the Santa Monica City Council decided to mollify the dog beach supporters by voting 6-1 to study the feasibility of a dog beach in the city.  

Thankfully, the latest battle over dog beaches seems to have come to an abrupt end with state officials making it clear to Santa Monica staff that they will not provide necessary approvals. 

As the president of Heal the Bay, a scientist with a doctorate on the health risks of swimming at polluted beaches, the owner of three rescue dogs, a father of three, and the longtime chair of the city’s Environmental Task Force, I’ve been involved at every level imaginable of the great dog beach debate for 15 years.

Although Santa Monica beach water quality has improved dramatically in the last three years (thanks to voter support of Measure V), our beaches still don’t consistently meet water quality standards for fecal bacteria.

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Cowell Doesn’t Give a Toss About the Beach

Thank you Simon Cowell.  An irate Heal the Bay member wrote a scathing e-mail encouraging us to take a stand against your ocean pollution commercial. It’s bad enough that my 12-year-old daughter Natalie is obsessed with his “American Idol” rip-off, “The X-Factor.”  (Try getting her to study when she’s sucked into the battle among Kitty, Misha B and 2 Shoes.) But now he’s doing a Verizon “X-Factor” app promo that encourages the trashing of a Malibu beach. In the spot, Cowell is seen tossing cell phones off his beachside balcony onto the shoreline while disparaging them as rubbish.

Cell phones contain a wide variety of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc. They also can contain brominated flame retardants and phthalates. Perpetuating our throwaway culture to over 12 million viewers isn’t exactly helping the cause of ocean conservation.

Cowell ends the spot by admonishing a family on the beach to not pick up the trash.  Even the leashed puppy complies with the bombastic Brit’s orders. If Cowell gets busted for bad behavior, I hope his community service is participation in Coastal Cleanup Day for life.

The Brits are always giving us trash: Gordon Ramsay, The Osbournes, the Spice Girls, Jason Statham, soccer (just kidding on that one, sort of).  Now they’re trashing our beaches.  Wasn’t British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill bad enough?

Chaos at Cabrillo

Foot-dragging by the Port to clean up Cabrillo Beach could significantly cost the city next spring.

Foot-dragging by the Port to clean up Cabrillo Beach could significantly cost the city next spring.

Inner Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro ends up getting Ds or Fs on Heal the Bay’s Annual Beach Report Card year after year.  Sometimes the beach even ends up on our Beach Bummer list, which ranks the 10 most polluted beaches in all of California. 

Over $10 million has been spent over the years on a wide variety of studies and projects to improve the situation.  Workers found and removed old sewer lines.  They plugged an old, abandoned  stormdrain.  Recently, the entire beach was replaced with new sand and reconfigured. A pump device designed to provide water circulation at the bath-tub like beach has been tested.  This month, a rock jetty will be removed in the hopes that it will enhance water circulation.  About eight years ago, the workers installed a series of bird excluder devices, and the Port of L.A. this fall will install new devices (picture fishing line strewn on top of a matrix of poles).

Despite all time, money and effort, Cabrillo continues to get Fs on the Report Card.  And this spring, the Port’s inability to clean up the beach moves from a public health issue to a Clean Water Act compliance issue.

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