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South Bay Digest

South Bay : Beach Foam Disappears

November 13, 1986

A light-brown foam that blanketed South Bay beaches for more than a month--prompting scores of complaints to local officials--has disappeared, local lifeguards said this week.

The unsightly foam, which looked like dirty laundry suds, was caused by a large plankton bloom, marine biologists and botanists said. The bloom caused a massive discharge of protein, which created foam when it came in contact with the air, and eventually was deposited on local beaches by waves, they said.

"It is a biologic slick," said Jim Stewart, a marine botanist and chief of the research diving program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, where the plankton bloom also struck beaches. "People think somebody has dumped gallons of detergent in the water."

Jackie Parker, also of Scripps, said the foam, while "it doesn't look pretty," is not harmful to humans. Los Angeles County Lifeguard Capt. Steve Voorhees agreed.

"I am a living testament," Voorhees said. "I was swimming in it every day and it was no problem."

Voorhees and others said local beachgoers should expect another bout with the foam within two months. Every winter, they said, the winter surf creates the foam by pounding the beaches and causing sand and various ocean nutrients to become suspended in the water.

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