Aliso Creek begins in Trabuco Canyon up at Cook’s Corner. It travels a long way to the mouth at Aliso Beach that feeds into the ocean. With urban runoff, it picks up motor oils, grease, pesticides, industrial cleaners, animal waste, brake dust, antifreeze, trash, plastic, fertilizers, aesbestos and sewage. Illnesses that come from exposure to water with these types of pollutants include gastrointestinal issues, pink eye, skin rashes, and other ailments. Surfers, skim boarders, body boarders, tray surfers, body surfers and swimmers that have spent appreciable time here are aware of the dangers posed by the Creek. Due to urban runoff it is full of cancer causing agents that are not good for humans and is not good for any of the marine ecosystem that is connected to this watershed. Due to sewage spills and animal feces, the fecal coliform bacteria levels are sometimes as high as 4 times what they should register for human contact to be safe. The creek backs up and it is an unsightly pond that has a funky smell. The thought of swimming in that makes me want to throw up and yet if the waves are good, I like many other wave riders in the area, will be out there. But what about the kids and parents who don’t recognize the signs and are not aware of the Aliso Creek’s issues and the potential illnesses associated with contact with water at Aliso? You could never look at the beautiful waters at Aliso Beach on a warm day with mild winds and see polluted waters. Often times the way it looks and the way the water tests are two different things. The waters show like an exotic beach location and yet Aliso Creek has been referred to as a toxic stew.
To the right you see Aliso Creek dammed up just before it reaches the ocean at the beach. As you can see, the water isn’t the prettiest of things and it has been known to carry urban runoff and sewage that may be dangerous to human contact. To this day, you will see children splashing around in this, and since children are known to have immune systems that are more easily compromised than adults, parents should keep them away from this water when visiting Aliso Beach.
Again, most everyone knows this has been a problem for a very long time. An August 30, 2013 article in the Laguna Beach Independent mentions that between 1997-2006 there were 19 articles in the Los Angeles Times covering the issues at Aliso Beach. The signs that notify swimmers are still everywhere at Aliso Beach, so it is safe to say that serious issues remain. In a Len Hall Los Angeles Times Article in August of 1994, there were 16 beach closures up until the time of the article with one period of closure resulting from a 160,000 gallon sewage spill in June of 1994. According to a Los Angeles Times Article On Aliso Beach written by David Reyes in 1996, there were 24 beach closures at Aliso due to the run off from cities upstream and the contents of partially treated sewage spills and discharges. Whether these spills and discharges were approved or not, intentional or not, human error or whatever you want to call it, this article signified a real problem. It makes you wonder who would approve such a thing, doesn’t it? These types of events put people at risk of illness and endangers everything living in the coastal zone of the Aliso Beach Marine Ecosystem. If human beings should not want to swim in it, we should not want that for our friends in the sea! We could cover more of these articles but I think that you get the picture. Both historically and today, Aliso Beach has had its issues and continues to have them.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN CLEANING UP THE CREEK?
Army Corps Of Engineers
Environmental Protection Agency
County Of Orange
Laguna Beach City Council
South Coast Water District
In a SouthLaguna.Org bulletin in August of this year, Aliso Beach has kept its designation of being an impaired body of water under the Water Act signed in 1972. That isn’t good. How many people need to get sick before we all come together and fix this thing? If you don’t like that, you may be even more upset by an MSN Article on the National Resources Defense Council bringing a lawsuit against the EPA for needlessly exposing swimmers across the country to health risks when they failed to meet the congressional mandate to upgrade beach water quality standards by 2005. The standards at that time were said to be over 20 years old. Population increases should have required the need to address these standards every 5 years or less in my humble opinion. Over the years there have been proposals to pipe the dirty water miles out to sea, to build catch basins of native plants to trap the pollutants before they get to the ocean, to remodel the sanitation plant adjacent to the Aliso Golf Course with modern, state of the art equipment and to fine inland communities for their role in the pollution. There was a grant from the Army Corp of Engineers in the amount of $150k which was to establish a task force to explore options to clean up Aliso Beach and it was lost with the Bankruptcy of Orange County. As you can see, not only are there a lot of parties involved, but also there were budgetary constraints that have not helped much get done in the way of rehabilitating Aliso Beach. In some ways, the more things change for Aliso, the more they have remained the same. I imagine that budget constraints and government shut downs in 2013 aren’t doing much for Aliso as well. This would fall in line with the inability of funds and governing bodies to join forces to implement game changing efforts to rehabilitate Aliso Beach.
According to a Laguna Beach Independent Article, the Army Corp of Engineers was going to begin on a 45 million dollar effort to reinforce the creek bed with cement but the project was frozen due to the belief this did nothing to address the upstream urban runoff. In late summer of 2010, the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition was working towards a citizen based water quality task force which was met openly by the Laguna Beach City Council. This citizen based group won an Environmental award for their work in 2010. Michael Beenan was given the 2012 Orange County Conservation Hero Award for his work with the South Coast Water District that influenced a 2.2 million dollar expenditure geared to filter urban runoff in the creek to above drinkable water quality and combined with recycled water . They are under no illusion that this completely handles the 5 million gallons that enter the Aliso River daily, but it is a huge step in the right direction. Michael donated his $5000.00 prize grant to The Laguna Bluebelt Coalition. We feel like that was a great place to donate the grant to!
What Does All This Tell Us
- There is work yet to do in cleaning up Aliso Beach but it can be done when there are more cooperative efforts to solve this problem.
- Citizen Based Activism like occurred with Michael Beanan and Task Forces like the Laguna Beach Blue Belt Coalition are helpful and necessary.
- People do want to see Aliso Creek cleaned up.
- Cleaning up Aliso Creek is something we need to do to protect people and the marine life from urban runoff and sewage based pollutants.
- Aliso Beach pollution is a problem that will be solved one day! We believe!