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Swimming in Sea of Bacteria

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Southern Californians relieved to have some rain are horrified by the amount of bacteria that came with it. A flowing stream of trash, pollution and bacteria washed onto and into the local beaches. Sometimes so polluted after a rainfall, swimmers and surfers are advised not to go into the water for between 3 - 10 days or to come within 100 feet of either side of storm drains. Not something the local surfers and swimmers want to hear. Rain advisories which used to be just 3 days have changed to up to 10 days for some local beaches. Rain advisories are issued when a storm causes bacteria levels to rise significantly. This is especially true to beaches close to storm drains, and rivers during and after a rainstorm. Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of bacteria can make you sick with stomach flu, colds, and skin rashes.It is hard to tell which beaches are clean so its always best to check the bacterial levels themselves. Surveys of ocean water have found human sewage, domestic waste water, factory output, farm chemicals and pesticides, which all flow directly into and onto our oceans and beaches. High levels of E. coli and enterococci were found in a recent study of bacteria in sand on Santa Monica's beaches . This may show evidence that the sand is just as contaminated as the water.

You can protect yourself by avoiding beaches protected from waves in a cove or marina. Closed in beaches are unable to flush out all of the bad pollutants and bacteria. Santa Monica State Beach, Topanga State Beach and Malibu beaches, are often very polluted from local storm drain run off. It is always good to check out Los Angeles County's Public health and Heal the Bay's websites to check for an issued rain advisory or beach health information.

Beach Tips:

  • You should take a Shower after visiting the beach (even if you only go onto the sand and not in the water)
  • Clean up any cuts or abrasions to avoid infection.
  • Check out Heal the Bay for current water conditions

For information about So Cal beaches and their health grades you can go to this website: or Heal the Bay


Los Angeles County of Public Health:

National Geographic:

Heal the Bay:



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