CALABASAS (CBSLA.com) — Two local swimming spots in the Santa Monica Mountains could pose a public health risk, according to a new study.
A pilot project conducted by environmental group Heal The Bay last summer found high levels of fecal bacteria and a “host of disease-causing microorganisms” at Las Virgenes Creek and Rock Pool, both at Malibu Creek State Park near Calabasas, according to Heal The Bay researcher Katherine Pease.
The results of the study (PDF) were only recently released due to limited resources for the pilot project, Pease said.
Researchers visited the sites approximately twice a week from June to Sept. 2014 to record site data such as air and water temperature, amount of trash, presence of animals in the water, and water clarity, color, and smell, according to Pease.
What they found was “concerning”, Pease said: 61 percent of the samples at Las Virgenes Creek were above levels considered safe for Enterococcus, while another 28 percent were over the limit for E. coli, researchers say. Water quality was described as “very poor.”
At Rock Pool, 22 percent of the samples were above safe levels for Enterococcus, and another 11 percent for E. coli, the study found. The water quality there was given a “poor to moderate” rating.
Testing at Solstice Canyon, also in the Santa Monica Mountains, found 10 percent of the samples were over the limit for Enterococcus, while none of the samples were over the limit for E. coli.
According to Pease, the findings pose the greatest risk to the Hispanic community and families who frequently swim at Las Virgenes Creek.
“There is a need for bilingual signage, education and outreach so that at a minimum, all visitors can be informed that there is a potential risk to swim in Las Virgenes Creek and Rock Pool,” said Pease in a Heal The Bay blog post.
Despite the findings, however, researchers are reluctant to “completely discourage” people from swimming at the sites.
Instead, swimmers were urged to not swallow any water, avoid swimming with open cuts or sores, and make sure to shower with soap after using one of the three sites.