Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: "The Whale Song," for the festival in Dana Point


Even California grey whales need to stop and check for directions. This weekend and next, Dana Point is the place they'll do it, and so the city's holding its 41st annual Festival of Whales. Ground zero for Dana Point's party is the Headlands Conservation area: 

The Park includes a public trail system, over three miles in length, and links all the parks and open space areas of the Headlands. The system includes pedestrian trails, coastal and beach access, scenic overlooks and the Nature Interpretive Center. The parks and trails can be reached either off of Green Lantern or at Dana Strand Rd., limited parking is available along these streets or at the Nature Interpretive Center parking lot. The trails are open from 7 a.m. to sunset daily.

This weekend they've got a parade, a block party, educational lectures, and a sandcastle building contest. 


Song of the Week: "Dig Deep," by Sweet Pea Atkinson, for groundwater contamination, chrome-6 wells

Radioactive Rosca/Flickr

Chromium is a steely-gray, lustrous, hard metal that takes a high polish and has a high melting point. It is also odorless, tasteless, and malleable. Also, the EPA is testing for it in the San Fernando Valley.

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would fill in some data holes by digging some holes (well, okay, wells) to test groundwater contamination at 30 new sites in North Hollywood, Burbank, and Glendale. EPA will spend $3.2 million on this groundwater contamination testing, most of it from "potentially responsible parties" including Goodrich, Lockheed Martin, PRC DeSoto, and ITT. 

They're looking for chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium. (If that rings a bell, it's because of Hinkley. You know, Erin Brockovich.) It's an element used in stainless steel, magnetic tapes, cement, rubber, protective coatings on metal, composite floors, and leather tanning. Sometimes the contamination's referred to as a plume; investigators are still learning about how those plumes move underground among substrate layers of sediment. Chromium 6 is also a cancer causer; the Centers for Disease Control has a FAQ about chromium hazards and risks.


Song of the Week: "Deck Shoes," for the US's largest sewage no-discharge zone


Cowes Week is an enormous regatta on the Isle of Wight. A deck shoe boat is an enormous deck shoe.

Apologies for the absence last week of what is likely your favorite part of the week, Song of the Week. Family matters forced my overlords to unshackle me from the blogging desk. Been out of commission for several days.

However, on this shortened week, I returned in time to report that the EPA and California are finally on the same page, and cruise ships and cargo vessels no longer can drop even treated sewage in state waters.

As far as I'm concerned, David Foster Wallace wrote the only nonfiction essay about the cruise ship industry; "The Love Boat" is the only television show to get down on the gritty below-decks politics of what happens when Halston, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Geoffrey Beene all guest star with Colonel Henry Blake from M*A*S*H, stop being polite and start being real; and The Greyboy Allstars have written the only funky song about strolling around the Lido deck. Song of the Week is "Deck Shoes," for the EPA and the cruise ship industry.


Song of the Week: "Smoggy Mountain High," by Key Losers, for clean cars and air pollution news

Mercer 15335

David McNew/Getty Images

The Hollywood sign and the undeveloped land that surrounds it are seen against the snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains.

This week's song comes to me courtesy of my Off-Ramp colleague Kevin Ferguson. "Smoggy Mountain High," by Key Losers, is a song from the band's most recent album, "California Lite."

Smoggy Mountain High (from "California Lite" by Key Losers) by P.W. Elverum & Sun, ltd.

Its specific subject is the San Gabriel Mountains, hard to see through particulate matter and smog pollution that gets trapped in the LA Basin. 

Beyond the city they are towering
obscured sometimes, but still they bring
eternal height in a dying world
a deeper look into the sky
beyond the city they are flowering
I see them sometimes when I'm in my car
I often want to go up to them
I get distracted and I forget

Key Losers is a band whose name is perhaps inspired by a Guided by Voices song. According to their website, "Key Losers is a band based in Portland, Oregon, whose songwriter, singer, guitarist, and only constant member is Katy Davidson." Davidson seems to be in several bands I have liked, including Dear Nora (in San Francisco) and YACHT. She says about the record:


Song of the Week: "Slash & Burn," for the NAMM show's musical instrument wood controversy

Jamie Ambler

Razia Said, Malagasy singer.

I try really hard not to pick protest songs for "Song of the Week." For so many reasons, but mostly, they tend to be insufferably bad, if not just whiny. I settled on picking Razia Said for this week's artist, because of the NAMM show, and Said's protest song, "Slash and Burn," has a groovy rhythm that reminds me of political songs of the early nineties out of other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, so let's do it. 

This song is for the NAMM conference, wrapping up today in Anaheim. Yesterday we heard about Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson guitar, a guy who has felt caught up in in something larger in a way he doesn't like. Razia Said's song is kind of about the same feeling, but from a different perspective. 

One day in may
It was a beautiful day
I felt so alone
When the sky opened up
And changed to charcoal grey 
One day in may
Just like any day
It chilled my bones
When i heard you say
That the hills have burned away
Slash and burn
Slash and burn
No where left to hide 
On the mountain side