Visit Heal the Bay for current conditions.
Past and current data have shown that discharge from the treatment plant has little to no impact on the Santa Monica Bay shoreline; rather, the largest sources of bacterial pollution are flows from storm drains and urban runoff. The Department of Health Services advises not to swim within 100 feet of a flowing storm drain.
While the location of the Hyperion wastewater plume shifts depending on currents and water temperatures, it has never reached area beaches (based on over 40 years of monitoring). Additionally, bacteriological surveys of water samples collected at the area of Hyperion's 5-mile outfall indicate very low levels of indicator bacteria. Due to numerous factors that have been published, it is unlikely that anyone would get sick by swimming at the beach near Hyperion from treated effluent discharged five miles out and 180 feet deep.
Years of monitoring indicate the wastewater "plume" does not reach the shore. Bacterial contamination of the beaches is almost always caused by storm drain discharges, which occur during dry weather as well as during and after a storm. Dry-weather flows originate as runoff from rooftops, residential yards, parking lots, freeways, industrial and commercial facilities, construction sites, golf courses, parks, and many other surfaces.
Most species of locally caught fish contain low levels of pollutants of concern and are safe to eat. However, a few species exceed the safe levels set by the State of California. The State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) makes the following recommendations for fish caught locally in Santa Monica Bay and around Los Angeles Harbor;
These recommendations by the State should be followed. EMD's tissue assessment data continues to support the findings of OEHHA.
The overall health of the Santa Monica Bay is good and it is improving. Species have been observed in increasingly greater numbers over the past few years with improved Bay water quality. The improved conditions are due, in large part, to the exceptional wastewater processing standards of full secondary treatment at the Hyperion Treatment Plant.
The cessation of sludge disposal to the Bay in 1987 and the discharge of full secondary effluent at Hyperion Treatment Plant in 1998 resulted in a dramatic reduction in the discharge of solids to the Bay. This coincided with an immediate increase in the number and diversity of species near the 5-mile discharge outfall. Today, the area around the outfall has the greatest species diversity of any equivalent site in the Bay.
Sewage treated through the plant's processes is tested to ensure that systems are operating properly to effectively remove pollutants. The sewage is analyzed for a variety of chemicals, many of which can be toxic or carcinogenic at certain levels. During 2014 through 2015, the presence of toxic or carcinogenic chemicals was rarely detected. With few exceptions in thousands of tests, these chemicals were either not present at all or were at such low levels that they could not be detected by the most sensitive instrumentation. In cases where they were detected, most were within the concentrations below the limits specified in Hyperion's NPDES permit and the objectives of the California Ocean Plan. Therefore, when detected, the pollutants were at levels that are considered protective of human health and the animals inhabiting the Bay.
Of course it matters and individuals should try to make a difference. Just remember, for every person, there are many more thinking just like you. Be aware of the trash reduction and recycling measures recommended by your city of residence. Practice them. Picking up after your pets and proper disposal of wastes are a great start. Help your neighbors become informed and participate in beach clean-ups and other volunteer events. Do your best to conserve water. These are significant ways to help the Bay and to help you have control over your environment. The City can offer people solutions to produce less waste. and use environmentally friendly alternatives to accomplish things in your daily life. This always results in a favorable outcome. Information on "green LA," solutions for LA residents, can be found here.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power tests all drinking water ensuring that it meets and/or surpasses the highest Federal and State drinking water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the State of California, State Water Resources Control Board--Division of Drinking Water (SWRCB-DDW). More about L.A. DWP Drinking Water Quality Report