Los Angeles River Restoration Beset By Bacteria

By on August 8, 2016
los angeles river restoration

Recent efforts to advance the Los Angeles River restoration have achieved a lot, including opening up the waterway for the public to use and enjoy. But there is still much work to be done, especially in the realm of monitoring the river’s health now and in the future.

According to a recent report from Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit that works to improve the coastal waters and watersheds of the Greater Los Angeles area, the river is dealing with a slew of issues. Litter still affects the waterway, for one, but it also has a bacteria problem.

During the summer of 2015, scientists from the group collected and tested water samples weekly for fecal indicator bacteria at three sites in recreation zones in the Sepulveda Basin and Elysian Valley areas of the river. Bacteria levels varied among the sites, but overall were quite high.

Samples for one type of fecal indicator bacteria, Enterococcus, exceeded federal standards 100 percent of the time at two sites in the Elysian Valley (Rattlesnake Park and Steelhead Park) and 50 percent of the time in the Sepulveda Basin. The Rattlesnake Park site also suffered from a 67 percent exceedance rate for E. Coli.

Such bacteria levels can raise the risk that those who frequent the river, mostly kayakers currently as it’s not swimmable, could develop ear infections or respiratory problems. For those who come into contact with the water, there is also a possibility of gastrointestinal illness.

Monitoring elsewhere along the river has revealed similar counts of bacteria, which have helped it to become designated as bacteria-impaired by California regulators. The Los Angeles River also has a Total Maximum Daily Load that seeks to limit things like urban runoff and failing septic systems that can contribute bacteria to its wake.

Full results of the study, including a list of recommendations to increase beneficial uses and further enhance Los Angeles River restoration work in the future, are published on Heal the Bay’s website.

Top image: Katherine Pease, watershed scientist at Heal the Bay and author of a recent report concerning the Los Angeles River’s bacteria levels. (Credit: Heal the Bay)

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