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pollution reduction in the Bay

Dye Tablet Program
Starting in 1988, the City of Avalon has implemented a dye tablet program for all recreational boats that enter Avalon Harbor. All recreational boats that enter and moor in the harbor are boarded by the City’s Harbor Patrol and dye tablets are put in all heads (toilets) on the boat and then the head is flushed so the dye enters the boat’s holding tank. If a boat discharges any of their holding tanks into the harbor, the dye is immediately seen in the surrounding waters. If this type of discharge occurs, the boat is immediately removed from Avalon Harbor and prohibited from re-entering for one year. The boat owner is also fined by the City for the illegal discharge. The City has a “no tolerance” rule for this type of behavior and enforces this rule strongly. This dye tablet program has been a model for other similar programs across the nation.

Low Flow Diverters
Most cities have a separate storm drain system and sanitary sewer system. So what this means is that everything that goes into the sanitary sewer system (i.e. toilets, sinks, laundry water) is sent to a local wastewater (sewage) facility for treatment before it is discharged into the water. On the other hand storm drains carry all water and pollutants that are on our streets and flow directly to the Bay untreated. Runoff from storm drains, also widely known as “urban runoff” is the number one source of pollution into Southern California ocean waters.

As a result, in 1998, the City installed “low flow” diverters at the end of all storm drains that drain into Avalon Bay. The diverters were installed to capture all runoff during the summer or “low flow” seasons. Initially they were diversion structures built to pump the captured runoff to the local wastewater facility for treatment, but the pumps and wastewater facility were overwhelmed with the amount of diverted water. So in recent years, the City has implemented a cleanout of all diverters twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) to ensure the effectiveness of these devices. This basically means that no runoff from the street and storm drain system enters the Bay during the summer months.

The diverters work for a certain portion of the winter months as well, especially during the many dry winter months in Southern California. But when it rains, the diverters are made to let extra water that they can’t capture flow over into the Bay. This is so the streets in the City will not flood from heavy rains. Capturing and treating wet weather flow is a challenge for many cities along the coast. Just remember that runoff during wet weather can heavily pollute any waters and it is recommended that you do not swim in the ocean for 72 hours after a significant rain.

Bird Exclusion Wires
In 2000, a microbial source tracking study that was small in scope concluded that there was no evidence of human fecal pollution in Avalon Bay. As a result the City focused efforts on birds because bird waste can be a source of the high bacteria levels in the Bay. Over the years the City has increased the number of bird exclusion wires throughout the City, especially near restaurants and shops near the waters edge and on the green pleasure pier. This helps to keep gulls and other birds off of places where they may normally perch. Also, signs have been put up throughout the City to encourage people not to attract birds by feeding them. In addition to dealing with the general bird population, pigeons were captured and relocated to the mainland by professional bird handlers to reduce their population and their possible impacts to water quality in the Bay.

Sources and Mitigation Study
A more extensive study conducted in 2001 through a State grant helped the City of Avalon get one step closer to determining and characterizing the sources of bacteria in the Bay. Contrary to the earlier study, this study found that there was a percentage of human fecal pollution detected in the nearshore waters and groundwater sampling pits on land. As a result, the City lined their main sewer pipes and manholes in the downtown area and lateral sewer pipes were repaired and sealed within the first three blocks of the waterfront area to help ensure that human waste is not a source to the bacteria problem. In addition, plumbing under the wharfs was repaired and a twice per year inspection program was initiated. See Sources and Mitigation Study section for more information.