¿Dónde están las playas más sucias de California? Esta lista podría sorprenderte

¿dónde están las playas más sucias de california? esta lista podría sorprenderte
© Proporcionado por LA Times El muelle de Santa Mónica se encuentra entre las playas más sucias de California este año, tras un sorprendente aumento de la contaminación. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Después de un año catastrófico por derrames de petróleo y fallas en los equipos de alcantarillado, he aquí una buena noticia para la costa de California: La mayoría de las playas del estado siguen estando mucho más limpias que en décadas pasadas.

En su “boletín de calificaciones” anual, Heal the Bay calificó más de 700 playas y descubrió que el 94% de las playas de California registraron marcas de calidad de agua limpias entre abril y octubre de 2021, y que 51 playas obtuvieron puntuaciones perfectas durante todo el año, una buena señal para un litoral que antes estaba plagado de tanta basura y bacterias que la gente a menudo se enfermaba al nadar.

Pero el informe sigue encontrando preocupantes zonas de contaminación -algunas sorprendentes y otras persistentes-, especialmente en los meses de invierno.

Otro año de sequía extrema también ha complicado las cosas: Las playas tienden a estar menos contaminadas en los años más secos (imaginemos toda la basura, los pesticidas y los microplásticos que llegan al océano cada vez que llueve), pero esta tendencia se ha vuelto menos clara. Los científicos están empezando a estudiar cómo los incendios forestales sin precedentes y los cambios en los patrones de las tormentas podrían afectar también a la calidad del agua en la costa.

Sin más preámbulos, aquí están las playas más sucias de California:

1. Erckenbrack Park (Foster City, Condado de San Mateo)

2. Marlin Park (Foster City, Condado de San Mateo)

3. Muelle de Santa Mónica (Santa Mónica, Condado de Los Ángeles)

4. Mother’s Beach (Marina del Rey, Condado de Los Ángeles)

5. Moonstone County Park (Condado de Humboldt)

6. Newport Bay, Vaughn’s Launch (Condado de Orange)

7. Lakeshore Park (Condado de San Mateo)

8. Tijuana Slough, al norte de la desembocadura del río Tijuana (Condado de San Diego)

Este informe anual, que cumple 32 años, se basa en las pruebas rutinarias de calidad del agua realizadas por los funcionarios de salud locales, los departamentos de saneamiento y las agencias estatales y tribales. Las muestras de las playas se analizan en busca de tres bacterias indicadoras de la presencia de heces que muestran la contaminación procedente de numerosas fuentes, incluidos los desechos humanos y animales.

Dado que cada organismo organiza sus datos de maneras diferentes (y a veces confusas), Heal the Bay -una organización medioambiental sin ánimo de lucro con sede en Santa Mónica- comenzó a recopilar y traducir la información en simples calificaciones de A+ hasta F para que el público pueda entender fácilmente. Nadar en una playa con una calificación de C o inferior aumenta en gran medida el riesgo de sufrir erupciones cutáneas, infecciones de oído y de las vías respiratorias superiores, y otras enfermedades como la gripe estomacal.

La Junta Estatal de Control de los Recursos Hídricos respalda este informe, que ayuda a los científicos y a los responsables políticos a detectar las tendencias y las playas específicas que necesitan una mayor atención.

El muelle de Santa Mónica, por ejemplo, fue una sorpresa este año. Esta popular atracción turística solía registrar sistemáticamente las peores calificaciones del estado debido a un gran desagüe pluvial bajo el muelle. Pero eso cambió después de 2018, cuando la ciudad construyó un tanque de 1,6 millones de galones debajo del estacionamiento para capturar y reciclar la escorrentía sucia antes de que llegar al océano.

Los funcionarios de la ciudad todavía están tratando de averiguar qué está causando este nuevo pico de contaminación. Las aves que se posan y defecan bajo el muelle son probablemente las culpables. (También es probable que las aves estén detrás de las altas concentraciones de bacterias registradas este año en Vaughn’s Launch, en la bahía de Newport, que está situada dentro de una reserva ecológica).

Las playas con mala circulación también siguen siendo un problema. Por tercer año consecutivo, un número preocupante de playas del condado de San Mateo encabezó la lista de las playas más sucias de California. Muchas de estas populares zonas -como la de Mother’s Beach en Marina del Rey- están atrapadas entre canales y puertos urbanizados.

¿dónde están las playas más sucias de california? esta lista podría sorprenderte
© (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times) Mother’s Beach en Marina del Rey, aunque es popular entre las familias con niños pequeños, es una de las playas más contaminadas de California debido a la escasa circulación del agua. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Aunque estas playas están protegidas de las grandes olas -lo que las hace populares para las familias con niños pequeños- la contaminación y las bacterias se acumulan fácilmente por la escasa circulación.

“La naturaleza física de esas playas es un gran problema: el desarrollo circundante llega hasta el borde del agua”, dijo Luke Ginger, un científico de la calidad del agua en Heal the Bay. “Así que hay mucho hormigón, muchas superficies impermeables. Las aguas pluviales fluyen directamente desde la calle hasta el agua”.

Las infraestructuras defectuosas también resultaron ser un gran problema el año pasado. El verano pasado, 17 millones de galones de aguas residuales se vertieron en las aguas de las playas de Dockweiler y El Segundo después de que la instalación de tratamiento de aguas residuales de Los Ángeles se averiara. En la costa de Huntington Beach, se calcula que unos 25.000 galones de petróleo se vertieron al mar en octubre tras la rotura de una antigua tubería.

En la frontera con México, casi mil millones de galones de aguas residuales se vertieron en el Pacífico después de que una tubería conocida como el “Colector Internacional” presentara grietas en enero. Las comunidades cercanas a la desembocadura del río Tijuana -que nace en México, pero desemboca en el océano en California- han sido afectadas crónicamente por estos fallos en la contención de los flujos de aguas residuales sin tratar.

“Un solo fallo grande puede causar muchos problemas”, dijo Ginger, que señaló las muchas décadas de esfuerzos para limpiar las playas de California. “Con el envejecimiento y el deterioro de la infraestructura, nos preocupa que sucesos como éste sean cada vez más frecuentes”.

Dejando de lado los vertidos masivos, la escorrentía de los desagües pluviales sigue siendo la mayor fuente de contaminación de las playas de California. A diferencia de las aguas residuales, que suelen filtrarse en instalaciones de tratamiento antes de ser vertidas, la mayor parte de esta agua sucia llega directamente al océano a través de una red de desagües pluviales y ríos revestidos de hormigón.

Las tormentas de la semana pasada dejaron las playas del sur de California llenas de basura. “Es asqueroso… el agua estaba muy turbia”, dijo Kelsey Widman, que desafió los montones de basura para surfear en Seal Beach.

Una buena regla para evitar en lo posible la contaminación, es mantenerse al menos a 100 yardas de distancia de los desagües pluviales y muelles – y tener cuidado al nadar en playas cerradas. Y siempre, siempre, esperar al menos 72 horas después de la lluvia antes de entrar en el océano.

Ginger y su equipo también han mejorado sus informes diarios, llamados NowCast, en 25 playas locales para ayudar a la gente a estar mejor informada. Y por segunda vez este año, el informe incluyó tres playas populares de Tijuana que se ven afectadas regularmente por las aguas residuales: El Faro, El Vigía y Playa Blanca, que recibieron la peor calificación de todas las playas evaluadas este año.

Inspirado por el modo en que este informe anual sobre las playas ha conducido a la mejora de las normas estatales, un movimiento creciente de personas dirige ahora su atención hacia la cuenca hidrográfica, a los numerosos ríos y arroyos que desembocan en el océano y sirven de recreo a las comunidades del interior.

¿dónde están las playas más sucias de california? esta lista podría sorprenderte
© (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times) El río de Los Ángeles fluye a través de un paisaje mayoritariamente urbano, llevando la escorrentía contaminada hasta el océano. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

La misma escorrentía urbana que contamina el océano suele empezar en estos ríos aparentemente frescos. Pero, a diferencia de lo que ocurre hoy en día con el control de las playas, en California no existe una supervisión o estandarización a nivel estatal del control de la contaminación del agua dulce. Debido a esta falta de datos, la gente que se baña en los ríos no recibe la misma información sobre salud pública que los bañistas que entran al mar.

En su cuarto año, el “boletín de calificaciones de los ríos” de Heal the Bay utiliza un marco de clasificación similar para 35 lugares a lo largo de Malibu Creek, el río Los Ángeles y el río San Gabriel en el condado de Los Ángeles.

Estos son los lugares fluviales más populares de la zona de Los Ángeles que presentan el mayor riesgo de enfermedad:

1. El río de Los Ángeles en el parque Riverfront (Maywood)

2. Río de Los Ángeles por debajo de la Confluencia del Río Hondo (South Gate)

3. El río Los Ángeles en el parque Hollydale (South Gate)

4. Compton Creek

5. Río Los Ángeles por debajo de la confluencia con Compton Creek (Long Beach)

6. Tujunga Wash en la presa Hansen (Pacoima)

7. Río Los Ángeles en Willow Street (Long Beach)

8. Río Los Ángeles en Rattlesnake Park (Elysian Valley)

9. Las Virgenes Creek (Malibu Creek State Park)

10. Bull Creek (Valle de San Fernando)

El informe señala que es alarmante descubrir la gravedad de la contaminación en la parte baja del río de Los Ángeles, especialmente en las zonas que no están destinadas a la recreación pero que se utilizan para nadar y pescar. Las comunidades de personas sin hogar también han recurrido a esta parte del río para lavarse y cubrir otras necesidades.

Los niveles de bacterias a lo largo de este tramo del río son más de 10 veces superiores a lo que la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. considera seguro.

Tracy Quinn, que se convirtió en la nueva presidenta de Heal the Bay en mayo, dijo que la ampliación del informe sobre el río es una gran prioridad. El pasado mes de octubre, el gobernador Gavin Newsom firmó una nueva ley que encomienda a los funcionarios estatales la tarea de identificar todos los lagos, ríos y arroyos de California que deben ser vigilados para detectar riesgos para la salud pública.

Quinn, que anteriormente supervisó la política de aguas urbanas de California en el grupo medioambiental Consejo de Defensa de los Recursos Naturales, también aboga por más proyectos que puedan absorber y limpiar la escorrentía urbana, a la vez que se convierten en parques, proporcionando un espacio verde muy necesario para las comunidades del interior. Nuestro entorno construido y nuestra salud, dijo, son en última instancia inseparables.

“Hemos sustituido los paisajes naturales por calles y estructuras impermeables, lo que ha provocado una elevada carga de contaminación en nuestros ríos y océanos”, afirmó. “Cuando hablamos de la calidad del agua de la costa, tenemos que pensar en ella como una cuestión de la cuenca. Tenemos que abordarlo desde la cumbre hasta el mar”.

Para leer esta nota en inglés haga clic aquí

Este artículo fue publicado por primera vez en Los Angeles Times en Español.

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