South Bay Chapter Overview
Weekly Surfing Column: Surfrider works to keep oceans surfer friendly
By Doug Green
It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
The Surfrider Foundation is trying hard to protect our coastline, improve water quality and pass the stoke of surfing on to the next generation.
The South Bay Chapter is working on all three of these fronts for the benefit of people who use the ocean as a resource.
Alan Walti, South Bay chairperson, is keeping an eye on next Tuesday's closure of the Hyperion Plant's 5-mile outfall pipeline. At about 3 a.m. Tuesday, the "effluent," that is secondary-treated sewage will be channeled into the Imperial Highway sewage plant's 1-mile outfall pipe. For the next two days the beach will be closed as the pipe is inspected inside and out. For the first time in the pipe's 46-year history, it will be inspected from the inside by a team of divers. A remote-operated vehicle will inspect the pipe from the outside.
Beaches from Ballona Creek to Manhattan Pier will be closed until Thursday as teams of Department of Water and Power technicians monitor the "effluent plume" from the 1-mile pipeline. (I love the euphemisms for sewage: "wastewater," and "effluent." In a nice "plume." This is how bureaucrats dress up reality for us.)
Secondary-treated sewage has all of the solids and metals removed from it. It still has plenty of organic stuff: enterococcus and e. coli: stuff from the excrement of warm-blooded animals. The reality is that surfers get several ounces of "this plume" up their noses when they surf.
Tertiary-treated is so pure that you can drink it.
Walti, 62, a former head of the DWP's Safety, Health and Environmental Division, says despite the beach closure the water probably won't make anyone sick, but it's better not to take chances.
The project may be delayed by large surf or other inclement weather.
Surfrider is taking this in stride as it works on other fronts. It is part of a number of environmental organizations taking on further development in Playa Vista.
Surfrider is studying the possibility of creating new "treatment wetlands." This concept would bring the fermented runoff from the concrete Ballona Creek into a man-made wetland.
"Right now the polluted stream just goes directly into the ocean," Walti said. "The idea is to re-create the wetland to allow the water to slow down and sink in. When it comes out it is relatively pollution-free."
Walti said Surfrider is working on finding properties upstream of Playa Vista to acquire for the pollution-fighting scheme. It is also suing against further building in L.A.'s last open spaces without adding the "treatment wetland" concept to future development.
Surfrider has also joined a lawsuit against development at Toes Beach, which is at the end of Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey.
Walti says the proposed condominium project there would destroy the last existing "fore-dunes" in Los Angeles County. These are small dunes that used to line South Bay beaches, which were covered by ice plant and bike path.
But "the program closest to my heart is the teach and test program," Walti said.
It involves teaching students at five South Bay schools how to monitor water quality.
Students from Chadwick School and South Torrance, Redondo, El Segundo and Westchester high schools take a course that involves testing ocean water and logging on Surfrider's Web site.
They use the accredited Sea Lab facilities on Harbor Drive in Redondo Beach.
Walti said they take a water sample and "cook it" for 24 hours before examining it under the microscope.
"The kids get technical lab experience, they get to see the environment firsthand. The results can be presented to their school or city council," Walti said.
He said the students love the hands-on work with the tools of science.
"It's a real good deal for these kids, they can put it on their resume and use it to get admitted to colleges and universities."
Surfrider is also promoting ocean-friendly gardening, which requires using less pesticides and growing drought-resistant and low-water-consuming native plants. Surfrider activists are doing demonstrations coming up next month.
Walti worked for L.A.'s DWP for 30 years and was environmental manager for five of them.
The mechanical engineer said after retiring he decided to continue working on environmental issues "on the other side of the fence" as an activist.
He takes courses in marine biology, geology and "anything ocean-related" at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
He works for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation "studying pollution from trash, particularly plastics." His latest interest is studying environmental damage caused by oil and gas exploration at sea.
He's been an avid surfer all his life. Still is.
"I just sort of decided for the rest of my life to do something for the environment," he said.
Doug Green is a Daily Breeze copy editor, writer and surf instructor. Contact him at email@example.com.