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Tohuku Earthquake & Tsunami
March 11, 2012 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Because millions of tons of debris flooded into the sea from this catastrophic event, it’s understandable that people are concerned about tsunami-related material washing onto Southern California beaches. Learn more.
what we are working on now
Our ocean faces many challenges, and Heal the Bay works every day on a number of different issues. By addressing the many facets of ocean pollution, we make real and positive change possible. Many of these initiatives are made possible through reasonable legislation and regulations. Visit our Action Alert page to see how you can support that legislation and help make a difference. You can also review a list of our recent legislation.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas in the ocean where fishing is limited or restricted, leaving space for marine life to reproduce and grow. They're a key part of restoring fish populations , because they protect the entire ecosystem rather than just a single species.
Parts of our ocean have more plastic than plankton. This plastic plague never biodegrades, and can persist for hundreds of years in the ocean, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces and killing marine life. It's up to each of us to cut down on the amount of plastic in the environment by using less plastic and being responsible with the plastics we do use, but we also can support common-sense legislation and regulations that keep plastic out of our waters.
Today, stormwater, or urban runoff, is the largest source of pollution to the Santa Monica Bay. Each day, urban runoff carries high levels of bacteria, toxic chemicals, and trash to our beaches. By fighting for strong stormwater regulations, Heal the Bay forces municipalities to be accountable for their stormwater. We also support low-impact development ordinances and rainwater capturing initiatives. Low-impact development is design and construction that keeps stormwater from running off the property through the use of vegetation instead of pavement, and water reuse systems. Rainwater capture, which means capturing stormwater for use in irrigation and industrial use, is also a key part of ending stormwater pollution and helping conserve our limited water resources.
Heal the Bay was founded to fight for full sewage treatment in Los Angeles. That fight was hugely successful, and today, Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant is a world-class facility. Unfortunately, Los Angeles still has an occasional sewage spill, which is a real threat to public health, and Heal the Bay works to prevent those spills and properly notify the public when they happen. We also strongly advocate for effective septic system regulations, which are particularly necessary for the City of Malibu.
It might sound simple, but Heal the Bay believes that any industry that sucks in millions of gallons of seawater each day has the potential to harm marine life. That's why we fight so vigilantly against once-through cooling, a process used by many power plants in Southern California to cool their systems. These plants trap and kill thousands of animals a year, not to mention the fish eggs, larvae, and other microscopic life that is destroyed by the high suction and heat. We have the same concerns about desalination, particularly when desalination plants are used as justification to keep out-dated once-through cooling technology. We helped influence the adoption of a state policy to minimize the marine life impacts of once-through cooling, by requiring upgraded technology in California's coastal power plants. We continue to work to see that this policy is implemented at individual power plants in southern California.
Heal the Bay has been part of several landmark studies showing that high levels of bacteria in ocean water make swimmers sick. We believe that a day at the beach shouldn't give you the stomach flu or an ear infection. Heal the Bay fought for the Clean Beach Initiative, which dedicated state funds to some of California's most polluted beaches, and we sit on the Clean Beach Initiative task force, which prioritizes projects to clean up those beaches.
The cornerstone of the Clean Water Act, TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads) establish limits for a specific type of pollution in a particular water body. So for example, a TMDL for trash in the Los Angeles River specifies how much trash is allowed to enter the river (the limit is set at zero).
Heal the Bay also works to preserve ocean habitats. We have worked to restore terrestrial and riparian habitats in the El Segundo Dunes, Compton Creek and the Malibu Creek watershed to remove stream barriers and trash, and to replace invasive plants with native vegetation. We are also actively involved in the restoration of the Malibu Creek Lagoon. Learn more by reading Mark Gold's blog Spouting Off.
Did you know there is a DDT and PCB hot spot off the coast of Palos Verdes? This superfund site (which indicates it's one of the most polluted places in the United States), is left over from a 1930's era chemical plant. Because DDT takes so long to break down in the marine environment, it persists to this day, contaminating certain species of fish. There are also highly polluted sediments in the Long Beach area, a sign of the heavy shipping in the port. Heal the Bay works on developing effective capping and removal plans to keep those toxins from spreading.
Climate change is real, and it's here. And it doesn't just impact the polar ice caps. Climate change will cause rising sea levels in the Santa Monica Bay, changing salinity, and could even damage ecosystems by changing the currents that bring nutrients to the surface of the ocean. Much of what Heal the Bay does on a daily basis is related in some way to climate change.