Environment & Science

Nobody wants to take responsibility for fecal bacteria at Surfrider Beach

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A federal judge has turned back an earlier judgment that found Los Angeles County is responsible for pollution at Malibu’s Surfrider Beach. The ruling is a blow to environmentalists.

Several environmental groups, the regional water quality control board and LA County are squabbling in federal about fecal bacteria in Malibu waters. Surfers say that pollution irritates their eyes and ears and spreads viruses; the environmental groups say it comes from storm sewers.

The county doesn’t deny that storm sewers send bacteria into the ocean. But it also says it comes from other sources, too — and pollution can’t be pinned to the county.

Federal judge Howard Matz sees things the county’s way. He’s rejected an earlier court ruling from March that sided with the environmental groups’ view that LA County is responsible for the pollution and should clean it up.

The decision by Judge Matz means regional water regulators now have to approve new limits on bacteria at Surfrider Beach in April. If they do, LA County could again be held responsible for polluting coastal waters.