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Area's Beach Health Risks Mixed

Closures due to water pollution increase in L.A. and Ventura counties, decline in O.C., according to an environmental group.

August 06, 2004|Eric Malnic | Times Staff Writer

Beach closures and health advisories because of water pollution increased 60% last year in Los Angeles County and 73% in Ventura County, but dropped 20% in Orange County, an environmental group said Thursday.

Daniel Hinerfeld, deputy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Southern California, said there isn't any "rock-solid explanation" for the differences between areas.

He said the pollution readings didn't correspond to rainstorms, which carry contaminated runoff to the sea.

"We think that in Los Angeles County, it's simply more pollution in the runoff system," he said.

"There's not enough investigation into the sources of pollution and not enough efforts to halt the pollution."

But Hinerfeld noted that the Los Angeles City Council took a step toward halting beach contamination last month by approving a $500-million bond measure on the November ballot that would reduce discharges into the ocean. He said the action was in response to a consent decree that requires Southland governments to reduce a wide array of runoff pollutants.

The Defense Council's report showed that nationwide, there were 18,284 beach closures and advisories, a 51% increase over 2002.

"We can't ignore this problem as we have in the past," said Nancy Stoner, director of the Defense Council's clean-water project.

Los Angeles County led California last year with 1,459 closures and advisories, followed by Orange County with 1,329, San Diego County with 896 and Ventura County with 720.

"Even during the summer months, many Southern California beach-goers are faced with a lousy choice," said Anjali Jaiswal, a Defense Council attorney. "They can swim, surf and dive in bacteria-infested waters and risk getting sick, or they can stay out of the ocean."

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