Gross: L.A. River Polluted With Harmful Levels of Fecal Bacteria

Los Angeles River (Umberto Brayj / Flickr / CC)
Umberto Brayj / Flickr / CC

A study released by environmental advocacy group Heal the Bay on Wednesday has revealed dangerously high levels of fecal bacteria in the Los Angeles River.

“The bacteria is sometimes over the threshold limits and can be unhealthy in the Sepulveda Basin,” Katherine Pease, author of the Heal the Bay study, told the Los Angeles Daily News. “These bacteria can make kayakers sick if they get it into their mouths, or cuts, or eyes. I wouldn’t drink it. If you take certain precautions, it should be pretty safe,” Pease said.

Samples were reportedly drawn once a week for three months last summer from the Sepulveda Basin in Lake Balboa and in the Elysian Valley north of downtown. The study also found that the bacteria enterococcus exceeded federal standards in 100 percent of water samples at the Rattlesnake and Steelhead parks in California’s Elysian Valley.

The presence of this fecal bacteria heightens the risk for ear infections, respiratory infections and gastrointestinal illnesses. According to the Daily News, Heal the Bay suggested that leaks from wastewater collection systems, illegal connections and failing septic tanks and waste from humans and pets likely caused the urban runoff.

However, Mike Meno of the Conservation Corps and a spokesman for Paddle the L.A. River, which is described as an outfitter for the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, took a different take. He told the Daily News: “the water is purified. And if it’s deemed safe enough to paddle, it’s good enough for us. If it wasn’t safe, the L.A. Conservation Corps wouldn’t be putting kayaks in the water.”

Last year, the Daily News reported that a similar study that was published by the Heal the Bay found that similar traces of fecal matter were found in the fresh-water ponds and swimming holes in and across from the Santa Monica Mountains.

The L.A. River is not alone. Earlier this week, a doctor warned that athletes swimming offshore at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics “will literally be swimming in human crap.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz