Mark McDermott

Seaside Lagoon gets another reprieve

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The Seaside Lagoon will remain open for the upcoming summer season. Photo by Mark McDermott

The Seaside Lagoon will remain open for another summer swimming season after the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board granted the facility another reprieve. The regulatory agency has given the city an extra year to implement a costly new water outflow testing requirement.

“Frankly, I am thrilled the board has decided to give us additional time at actually little additional cost,” said Mayor Mike Gin. “I think, and I am hopeful, that they are starting to realize how special and unique a facility the Seaside Lagoon is, so I am grateful for the additional time the council and I have to work through these issues.”

The city has struggled to meet LARWQCB requirements and has spent more than $500,000 since 2005 in water quality fines, testing, and legal costs. The regulatory agency last year threatened more than $21 billion in fines for water quality violations under the Clean Water Act, but eventually issued only $51,000 in fines and issued a new permit intended to keep the lagoon open through 2013. But as part of that agreement, the city was required to undergo a new testing regime, one that became more expensive when the LARWQCB added an array of metals last fall.

The council drew a line in the sand at that additional cost, which was about $50,000, and earlier this year threatened to close the water feature within the lagoon if the water control board did not compromise. The city has long contended that water pumped out of the lagoon – which first cools the AES power plant, then is chlorinated for swimming and de-chlorinated before discharge – is cleaner than the water pumped in from the ocean.

A letter sent to the city from LARWQCB Executive Director Samuel Unger officially extended the city’s required draft “work plan” until May 2012. Unger cited the city’s concern with cost during difficult economic times in granting the extension.

In an interview Tuesday, Unger said that city and agency staff are working more closely together to solve the water quality issues that have dogged the lagoon, particularly the elusive “total suspended solids,” the a silt-like substance that has been the source of most problems.

“Our staff has been working with their staff,” Unger said. “We think there is some potential benefits that may come out of the collaboration in trying to determine what the sources of the TSS are. And so that is why we gave them another year, hopefully to reach some firm understanding of what the issues are and maybe come up with a solution.”

“We want to work with the city of Redondo Beach and the people who enjoy the lagoon,” Unger added.

Maggie Healy, the city’s acting director of Recreation and Community Services, praised the water board’s staff for its willingness to compromise and help the city find a solution.

“There is always a solution to be found,” Healy said. “It’s just a very complicated issue, and we are coming at it from two different perspectives. So it’s helpful to communicate with them openly and regularly…Everyone wants to keep the lagoon open; it’s just how do we do it within the regulatory framework.”

The council is seeking legislative help in legally re-designating the lagoon so that it would not be subject to regulations it argues more appropriately apply to industrial facilities and do not take into consideration the uniqueness of the facility, which was established in the early 1960s and attracts 100,000 visitors each year.

The mayor said that the city will do everything in its power to keep the lagoon open.

“I think it reflects not only our community’s desire but myself and the council’s desire to really keep the lagoon as it is, because it’s really a special place,” Gin said. “We are willing to do whatever we can to preserve our historic lagoon.” ER

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