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Officials Warn Against Going into Santa Monica Water

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 4, 2014 -- The California storm that washed over Santa Monica this week didn’t cause major backups or spills in the city or to its bay, but officials were still warning beach-goers to stay out of the water due to possible contamination.

The rain was not heavy enough to overtax the city’s storm system, Santa Monica Water Resources Manager Gilbert Borboa said Wednesday.

“We handled it fairly well,” he said. No reports of major spills were received, he added.

James Alamillo, a spokesman for the Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay environmental group, said the organization had received reports of storm-related debris such as plastic and Styrofoam spilling out near the Santa Monica Pier “in pools.”

Meanwhile, officials were advising the public to stay away from the water due to runoff that can flow into the bay during storms and could be contaminated by, among other things, oil and gas residue from automobiles, litter, fertilizer and animal excrement.

Worries about the potential for contamination prompted public health officials to issue a rain advisory for all Los Angeles County beaches. The advisory was to remain in effect at least until Thursday at 6 p.m., according to the county Department of Public Health’s website.

It warns beach users to avoid contact with the water for at least 72 hours after significant rainfall.
“It’s a witches brew,” Alamillo said. “Even if it’s sunny out, don’t go in the water. You  risk getting sick.”

He also advised that children or those with vulnerable immune systems should wait until the middle of next week before going into the bay waters.

In any case, the storm -- which dropped an inch of rain in the Los Angeles area -- wasn’t nearly wet enough to deliver much relief from the years-long drought, Borboa said.

He said the storm probably means sprinklers won’t need to be switched on for a week or so. But putting a significant dent in the drought would require a 50 percent increase in the normal rainfall over the next two years, he said.

Normal rainfall is 13 inches annually, he said.

Like other cities, Santa Monica has imposed tougher restrictions on water use. As it now stands, water allowances are 68 gallons of water per person per day -- compared to the 80 to 100 gallons of water per day the average person now uses.
The restrictions also ban watering between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; over-spraying; hosing hardscapes, such as driveways, sidewalks and patios, and washing vehicles with a hose that does not have a shut-off valve. Irrigation runoff and runoff from washing automobiles also would be prohibited.

Additional restrictions include wasting water, operating fountains without re-circulating systems and serving water at restaurants unless requested.

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