County of Los Angeles
Department of Public Health
5050 Commerce Drive
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
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Yes. The vast majority of ocean waters along the coast of Los Angeles County
meet State ocean water quality
standards. The only exceptions are areas adjacent to or in front of discharging
storm drains and after major rainstorms. Flowing storm drains and
areas not meeting standards are posted with warning signs. A
rain advisory is issued anytime ocean waters are affected by a
rainstorm. On rare occasions when there is a sewage or chemical
spill, beaches are posted with closure signs.
Why is runoff from storm drains a problem?
Storm drains direct runoff from urban areas to the
ocean. While they do not normally contain sewage, water in storm drains can contain
disease-causing pathogens. Depending on the amount of flow, the discharging storm drains
can affect ocean water quality several hundred yards from the discharge point.
Much greater areas may be affected following major rainstorms.
What are ocean waters tested for?
Ocean water is analyzed for three types of "indicator bacteria": total coliform, fecal coliform or E. coli, and enterococcus.
These bacteria can be found in the natural
environment as well as in the intestinal tract of warm blooded animals. When present, they
indicate the possible presence of disease causing bacteria, viruses or protozoa. When
results exceed State standards, beaches are posted with warning signs in the vicinity of
the high bacteria counts.
What types of pathogens can be
found in runoff?
What happens when ocean water
does not meet State standards?
When testing indicates that ocean water does not meet State standards,
lifeguards are instructed by the Department of Public Health to post warning signs in the affected
area. The warning sign indicates that State bacteriological standards have been exceeded
and that contact with water in the area may increase the risk of illness to a swimmer. The
warning signs are removed after additional testing indicates that bacterial levels have
returned to normal levels. If there is a sewage spill or chemical discharge, beaches are
immediately closed regardless of the bacteria levels. Beaches are reopened only after
testing indicates ocean waters meet State standards.
What can I do to stay safe when
swimming in the ocean?
As a precaution, avoid contact with storm drain water or runoff and
ocean waters adjacent to where storm drains discharge into the ocean for
a distance of at least 100 yards
Avoid swimming adjacent to piers. Piers attract birds which may cause
elevated bacterial levels. In addition, plumbing under piers may
occasionally be in disrepair and may discharge sewage into the water
Ocean water should be avoided for 72 hours after a rainstorm. The
high volume of storm drain water discharged during and after a rainstorm
can cause high bacteria levels throughout ocean waters along the coast,
especially near storm drain discharges
If a beach area is posted with warning signs or is closed, avoid all
contact with the water. If you have any question about where it is safe
to swim ask a lifeguard
Call the Environmental Health Beach Advisory and Closure Hotline at (800) 525-5662 for the latest information on ocean water quality
conditions or visit the website at
and choose "Los Angeles County Beach Advisories"
What can I do to help?
Remember, whatever is discharged into the
street or on the ground flows to a storm drain and eventually make its way to the ocean.
Properly dispose of animal waste
Properly dispose of pesticides, household paints, chemicals and motor
oil. Never pour chemicals on the ground or down a storm drain
Use a broom rather than a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks
Keep our beaches clean by picking-up after yourself every time you go
to the beach. Participate in beach clean-up days
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Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.