NEWS WORTH NOTING: Pyramid Lake algal bloom now at ‘warning’ level; Coastkeeper takes legal action to protect San Juan Creek and Doheny Beach from illegal pollution

Pyramid Lake Algal Bloom Now at ‘Warning’ Level

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is urging boaters and recreational users to avoid direct contact with or use of waters containing blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles County.

Water from the swim beach at Pyramid Lake’s Vaquero Day Use Area was tested using a field test kit on July 6 and showed a reading of 10 micrograms of microcystins per liter, a level that prompts the issuance of a “Warning” health advisory and the closure of the swim area. The Vaquero Day Use Area remains open for picnicking and other shoreline activities, but the swim beach is closed. A “Caution” advisory issued last week remains in place for the remainder of the lake, including Emigrant Landing Swim Beach. The Emigrant Landing Swim Beach is open for swimming.

Field test strips provide faster results than laboratory testing but do not yield definitive results. Samples have been sent to a laboratory for additional analysis.

Bloom conditions can change rapidly, and wind and waves may move or concentrate the bloom into different regions of the lake. “Warning” signs have been posted at Vaquero Swim Beach, and “Caution” signs remain posted at other locations around the lake.

The algal bloom can appear as blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats that can float on the water’s surface and accumulate along the shoreline and boat ramp area.

Blue-green algae can pose health risks, particularly to children and pets. Visitors to Pyramid Lake are urged to choose safe water activities while recreating there. They should avoid swimming and ingesting the water in the Vaquero Beach bloom area and avoid ingesting the water elsewhere in the lake. Pets should be kept  away from the water in all areas under advisory.

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Recreational exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms.  Pets can be especially susceptible because they tend to drink while in the water and lick their fur afterwards.

The Statewide Guidance on Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following for waters impacted by blue-green algae:

  • Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water, swim through algae, scums or mats or lick their fur after going in the water.  Rinse pets in clean water to remove algae from fur.
  • Avoid wading, swimming or jet or water skiing in water containing algae blooms or scums or mats.
  • Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water from these areas under any circumstances; common water purification techniques such as camping filters, tablets and boiling do not remove toxins.
  • People should not eat mussels or other bivalves collected from these areas.  Limit or avoid eating fish from these areas; if fish are consumed, remove the guts and liver, and rinse filets in clean drinking water.
  • Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins.  Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue-green algae.  Also, make sure to contact the local county public health department.

For more information, please visit:

California Department of Public Health:

State Water Resources Control Board – California CyanoHAB Network:

CA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment: Information on Microcystin

US Environmental Protection Agency: CyanoHAB website:

US Environmental Protection Agency: Anatoxin-a report:

Coastkeeper Takes Legal Action to Protect San Juan Creek and Doheny Beach from Illegal Pollution

From the Orange County Coastkeeper:

Today, Orange County Coastkeeper is taking legal action to protect the public and aquatic life from harmful pollution flowing from Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, a 60-acre equestrian riding park in San Juan Capistrano, into local waters. With an amendment to its existing lawsuit alleging stormwater violations and illegal fill activities at the Riding Park, Coastkeeper aims to hold the City of San Juan Capistrano and Blenheim Facility Management accountable for un-permitted animal operations that release manure and other harmful pollutants into San Juan Creek.

Coastkeeper specializes in water quality enforcement and, for 18 years, has made a tremendous difference in ensuring improved water quality and healthy waters for all of Orange County. Through legal enforcement similar to today’s action, Coastkeeper has drastically decreased the number of posted and closed beaches due to contamination, proactively developed stronger permits that regulate stormwater and urban pollution, and successfully worked with more than 60 local facilities to prevent industrial runoff and help them come into compliance with the clean water laws.

Coastkeeper filed its original complaint on June 2, after investigating numerous public complaints of poor water quality in the area and submitting a 60-day notice letter informing the defendants of the allegations. The federal lawsuit cites multiple Clean Water Act violations at the Riding Park, Reata Park and Arizona Crossing – a manmade road through San Juan Creek connecting the two parks. Now, Coastkeeper adds additional claims that the Riding Park has also been operating without Clean Water Act permits necessary for an animal facility of its size.

Facilities that confine 500 or more horses for 45 days or more in a twelve-month period generate massive amounts of manure and wastewater, and improper maintenance can cause runoff from manure areas to spill into nearby waterways. During storms, these facilities can discharge contaminated runoff to nearby waterways where they can cause illness. Due to the potential harm to water quality facilities of this size can cause, federal law classifies them as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or “CAFOs,” and regulates them similar to an industrial facility instead of a farm or agricultural site.

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To protect public health and species that depend on clean water, the Environmental Protection Agency requires stricter regulations for capturing wastewater and stormwater at CAFOs compared to smaller farms.

“After an exhaustive review of the site and the public record there’s no doubt that the Riding Park is large enough to be classified as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, and it hasn’t been following the appropriate standards to effectively manage its discharges,” said Colin Kelly, Coastkeeper’s senior staff attorney. “With today’s legal action, we’re telling the City to commit to protecting San Juan Creek and Doheny’s water quality by ensuring the standards it applies to San Juan’s horse owners are applied to itself at the city-owned Riding Park.”

San Juan Creek is an important local waterway to Orange County. It provides critical habitat for endangered Southern California Coast Steelhead, and it empties into Doheny State Beach – a popular surfing and swimming destination and one of the most polluted beaches in California due to its high bacteria levels. San Juan Creek is listed by the state of California as “impaired” for bacteria, phosphorus and nitrogen. These pollutants, along with nutrients, organic matter and pathogens, are associated with runoff from horse paddocks. Members of the public, along with Coastkeeper, have documented runoff from the Riding Park discharging to San Juan Creek.

Coastkeeper considers today’s amended complaint as completing our alleged violations of the Clean Water Act by the City of San Juan Capistrano and Blenheim Facility Management. The allegations in Coastkeeper’s complaint are serious and chronic violations of the Clean Water Act impacting those who use and enjoy San Juan Creek and Doheny State Beach. Those allegations include:

  • Threatening local water quality by failing to properly regulate discharges under the City of San Juan Capistrano’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit.
  • Filling portions of San Juan Creek and onsite wetlands with dirt and debris, including construction debris, without consulting with state or federal agencies and without obtaining proper permits.
  • Owning and operating an unpermitted horse Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation discharging to San Juan Creek and Doheny Beach without effective pollution controls.
  • Owning and operating a facility discharging stormwater from industrial areas to San Juan Creek without a permit.

After today’s legal action, Coastkeeper will meet with the City of San Juan Capistrano and Blenheim Facility Management in mid-July to discuss solutions to improve water quality as quickly as possible. If all parties cannot reach an agreement through dialogue, Coastkeeper will move forward to resolve the issue through litigation. Coastkeeper hopes its enforcement efforts will push the City to set a precedent to improve operations and protect water quality in all its facilities.


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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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