EPA to launch beach health risk study
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to study human health risks from bacteria and viruses picked up in coastal waters along beaches in Los Angeles County. Under the agreement, which was part of a settlement of a federal lawsuit, the EPA will make its findings public by December 2010 and update its water pollution standards within two years.
Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county's director of public heath, issued a statement welcoming "this effort to better understand the sources of contamination that could provide important information on how to reduce it."
Urban runoff remains the largest source of bacteria, viruses and other contaminants in coastal waters that can cause ear infections, intestinal distress and other illness among ocean swimmers, surfers and children who play in surf or streams flowing into the ocean.
In 2000, Congress passed the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act that required the EPA to complete such health studies of recreational waters by 2003 and adopt new standards by 2005. The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit, later joined by county officials, to force the EPA to comply with the law.
-- Kenneth R. Weiss
Photo: Children play in the surf near a storm drain in Playa del Rey. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times