Stormwater Pollution is Affecting the Health of Los Angeles Residents and Aquatic Organisms

By Michelle Ontiveros 
October 12, 2019

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Litter among the Santa Monica beach.
Getty Images.

Stormwater pollution has been a problem for Los Angeles residents for about the past twenty years. Storm drains are meant to take only rainwater, however, when contaminants like fertilizers, animal waste, litter, or automobile fluids get into the drainages it pollutes the county’s water. When these pollutants reach the county’s water it becomes hazardous to both the residents and animals. Even though it might seem unimportant that one residential or industrial site might cause contaminants to flow into the lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water, a combined concentration of these hazardous chemicals can pose a threat to them. 

Since stormwater flows directly into lakes, rivers, and the ocean through a separate storm sewer system it decreases the quality of drinking water and the safety of the water for recreational uses. With the hazardous wastes flowing into the water streams, it also damages the habitats of plants and animals and fisheries. These animals and fisheries depend on clean water to be able to survive. The oil or grease from automobiles cause an odor and makes the transfer of oxygen hard for aquatic organisms. There are nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that can cause an overgrowth of algae and this also depletes oxygen in the waterways. Not only is chemical pollution a problem but littering also ruins the beauty of the Los Angeles waterways. Litter gets into the sewage system and could end up in the bodies of aquatic organisms, ultimately effecting their longevity of life. 

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Many storm drainage systems become filled with litter and pollutants.
Getty Images.

Stormwater pollution not only poses a threat to aquatic organisms but the Los Angeles residents as well. When residents are exposed to contaminated water they can suffer from acute illnesses. For example, when a high level of nitrogen exists in water it increases the risk of methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia causes shortness of breath and the blueness of the skin. This can also affect pregnant women because it increases the chances of a miscarriage. Waterborne disease is especially very common amongst urban communities because they have large loads of bacteria in stormwater. And while the water is combined with chlorine and falls in line with the state regulations, there are still existing illnesses that affect the health of Los Angeles residents. 

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works has been engaged in a program to help reduce the amount of pollution that enters the storm drainage system. The county has launched a program named the Stormwater Public Education Program that educates the public about what they can do to avoid polluting waterways and help keep them clean.

Works Cited

Gaffield, S., Goo, R., Richards, L., & Jackson, R. (2003). Public Health Effects of Inadequately Managed Stormwater Runoff. American Journal Of Public Health93(9), 1527-1533. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.9.1527

Storm Water | Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. (2019). Retrieved 12 October 2019, from https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/losangeles/water_issues/programs/stormwater/

STORMWATER POLLUTION FAST FACTS. (2019). Retrieved 12 October 2019, from https://dpw.lacounty.gov/prg/stormwater/page_30.cfm

Stormwater Pollution Prevention. (2019). Retrieved 12 October 2019, from https://dpw.lacounty.gov/prg/stormwater/

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