The LA River's Dirty Little Secret

After a storm the LA River sends water from the mountains all the way to Long Beach Harbor and out to the ocean. But, what comes along with that water isn't good for us which is why health officials are warning us to stay out of the water for 72 hours after the last storm.

As you look out from the West Bank of the LA River where it feeds into Long Beach Harbor you can see an outflow where water is pouring into the channel.

That water might be from your neighborhood, but it's not just water from your street or the storm it's also junk. Water filled with bacteria, vegetation, pesticides, animal waste and just about everything but the kitchen sink. This water trash bin surrounded by booms is here to stop as much garbage as possible from reaching the ocean.

It's gross, but Steven Frasher with the LA County Department of Public Works says, "that's because this is the last line of defense of every street and stream and catch basin all throughout the LA County river-shed. Looking over the super-sized trash bin you see a cooler for drinks, a rubber hose, cups containers and all kinds of things that never got filtered out before reaching Long Beach and ended up in this floating trash heap.

Nelson Kerr, with the Long Beach Health Department says, "With all the trash and debris and other things comes high levels of bacteria so, what the health officer wants to do is to warn folks to stay out of the water for at least 72 hours after the last rain."

Kerr, who specializes in environmental health says, go in the water and
"you could become sick because the water is high in bacteria at these points right after a rain."

If you're wondering why don't they pretreat the water as it flows through the system before getting here… THEY DO… But, we still end up with bacteria that could make us deadly sick. Paul Alva, Asst. Deputy Director of LA Public Works says, "...there's always going to be bacteria but, the issue is do we have projects in place or in the design phase where we can put it in the ground, capture the water for use later." And, they do.

Steve Zieg has worked this operation for 14 years says floating down the river he's seen "big trees, engine blocks, vegetation and plastics. And, the plastics seem to be the big problem."

Nelson Kerr says the biggest problem to your health though is bacteria "… and viruses and things that could make us sick so we ask folks to stay out of the water for 72 hours…" after the last storm to protect your health.

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