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SEAL BEACH : City Asks That Sign at Beach Be Removed

August 25, 1994|RUSS LOAR

The sign read "Surf With Caution." It warned of polluted waters near the mouth of the San Gabriel River. But after numerous calls from concerned beach-goers, city staffers hit upon a solution: Take down the sign.

The sign was posted last Memorial Day near the popular Seal Beach surfing spot by the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group based in San Clemente with chapters nationwide.

"A city staffer said too many moms were calling and complaining," said Gordon Labedz, a Seal Beach physician who spoke to council members on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation on Monday night. "He said, 'Do you mind if we take the sign down?'

"We don't mind if the city takes down our sign. We just want the city to put up their own sign."

For now, the popular surfing spot has no warning sign.

The Surfrider Foundation has tested the water at the 1st Street surfing site and Labedz says adult surfers there routinely complain of noxious odors, especially during low tide.

"The water stinks. We test about once a week and we find it frequently polluted," Labedz said. "There's a lot of data on the river. I don't think anybody disputes that the water is frequently polluted."

The Orange County Health Care Agency also tests water quality at six Seal Beach locations each week. The agency routinely issues news releases warning of pollution near the San Gabriel River mouth after rainstorms, when debris from a large section of Orange and Los Angeles counties washes into the river.

"The bacteria levels do increase as the urban runoff comes down," said Larry Honeybourne, water quality program chief for the Environmental Health division of the Health Care Agency. "Generally, the levels are acceptable and meet state water quality standards."

City officials say they sympathize with the concerns of the Surfrider Foundation, but insist that it's up to the county to post warning signs.

"The county had warned us that in order to put up signs, we have to have certain tests we conduct regularly," said Seal Beach Mayor George Brown. "We're not able to do that at this point."

County health officials say they are considering posting health warning signs on all county beaches where storm drains dump into the ocean.

In Los Angeles County, Labedz says most beaches post warning signs near storm drain runoff areas. But regardless of who puts up the sign, he believes the public should be warned year-round of potential health hazards in some Seal Beach waters.

"The public has a right to know that water here is often polluted," Labedz said. "Most of the adult surfers who go in the water know the water is polluted and they're willing to take their chances. We're concerned about the young kids who surf in that water who are unaware that it is frequently polluted."

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