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Santa Monica Mountains Swimming Holes Are Full of "Fecal Indicator Bacteria"

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Taking a dip into #malibucreek on this gorgeous summer weekend.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Confidential (@lacmagazine) on


Thanks to the drought, Los Angeles's beaches are cleaner overall than usual lately (since there's less polluted runoff flowing into the water), but swimming holes in the Santa Monica Mountains have not received similar benefits. Heal the Bay, which tests beaches for bacteria that could make swimming a health hazard, also dispatched a "stream team" to check out three popular freshwater swimming areas in the mountains, says the LA Daily News. And the results were kinda gross.

Of the three spots the team tested, Heal the Bay found that two had poor-quality water full of "fecal indicator bacteria," meaning that swimmers there have a heightened risk of developing skin rashes or intestinal issues from swimming there.

Water samples from Las Virgenes Creek and Rock Pool, both in Malibu Creek State Park, frequently went over the allowed limits for bacteria like Enterococcus and E. coli. (28 percent of samples at La Virgenes went over the allowed amount of E. coli. Ew.) Solstice Canyon, which is on National Park Service Land, had the best water of the three, with just 10 percent of samples going over the allowed Enterococcus amount and no samples testing positive for E. coli.

Researchers suggested that the bacteria is probably coming from "human waste emanating from leaky septic tanks or sewage leaks upstream" or from animal poop traveling through water runoff. The pools at Las Virgenes and Rock Pool get their water from runoff from properties around the park, said a park ranger not authorized to talk to the press, so it makes sense that these pools would be full of all the gnarly things that runoff brings in addition to water. Those areas of the Santa Monica Mountains mostly rely on septic systems, since there aren't any sewers.

The study, conducted biweekly between last June and September, also found that few swimmers enjoying the rustic swimming pools were aware of the presence of all this poop bacteria. HtB suggested that officials post more signage near the pools and provide better overall education to the public about the potential dangers of swimming in these waters.
· Study: Polluted swimming holes in Santa Monica Mountains may pose public health risk [LADN]
· The Three Dirtiest and Cleanest Beaches in Los Angeles [Curbed LA]