The city of Laguna Beach is committed to protecting its greatest public resource—the ocean. Recently, a letter questioned the water quality testing methods and runoff prevention programs in Laguna Beach.
The writer questioned the Heal the Bay report card grades which focus on testing for bacteria in our waters and are required as part of an assembly bill that mandates ocean bacteria testing. This specific testing is done because high levels of bacteria can indicate there might be something in the water that could give people an illness like a sinus infection or stomach issue. If the bacteria levels are above a certain threshold, we post warning signs and retest the water until the results come back as acceptable.
In terms of runoff, the city continues to dedicate significant resources and effort to prevent urban runoff pollution from ever reaching the ocean. The city’s Water Quality Department staff removes an average of eight tons of debris and sediment annually from 17 of the city’s urban water diversions. Increased city street sweeping, trash collection as part of our newly launched “Keepin’ It Clean, Laguna” initiative and high-pressure sidewalk washing where all dirty water is recovered are just a few of our efforts. The city has also banned smoking, plastic bags and monitors construction sites for pollution prevention measures to stop runoff pollution before it starts.
Remaining street pollution is captured before it reaches the beach and is sent to the sanitary sewer system for treatment. There are 25 of these urban water diversions along the Laguna Beach coastline, and over 80 percent of the watershed land area in the city of Laguna Beach is diverted. Through this rigorous multi-layered approach, the city shows it is committed to protecting the ocean and keeping our ocean waters clean from runoff pollution. These programs have helped substantially reduce postings at our beaches over the last 10 years.
Also, there is very little urbanized area within the Laguna Beach city limits that drains into Aliso Creek, the cleanliness of which was also questioned in the letter. Most of the water flowing in Aliso Creek comes from upstream Orange County cities, and a plan recently approved by the San Diego Regional Water Board will further coordinate efforts amongst those cities within the Aliso Creek watershed. The city of Laguna Beach looks forward to working with the other inland cities on this plan and appreciates the efforts of the Surfrider Foundation and Zero Trash Laguna for their help in keeping our ocean water cleaner.
David Shissler, director of water quality for the city of Laguna Beach