To read the history of the Santa Monica Pier* and interact with this timeline, please click here.

SANTA MONICA – At the Pico-Kenter storm drain, there is a black blanket coating the sand. If it gets on human skin, Southern California locals will tell you that baby oil takes it right off. Others will suggest ice cubes and hand soap do the trick.

Doing nothing allows the tar to stay on the skin like a smudged bruise.

Tar on the sand at Santa Monica Pier.
Tar on the sand at Santa Monica Pier.

Though the tar is a natural phenomena, storm water run-off and sewage disposal bind with sediment in the bay. The runoff and disposal then are buried with the sediment as it goes out to sea.

What is storm water run-off?

Wet Water Vs. Dry Water

What is the Santa Monica Bay?

A coastal stretch of 50 miles, the pollution in the Bay was once suffocating to its ecosystem. Before a massive environmental and legislative overhaul began to make changes to the water funneled into the Bay, many of the contaminants snuffed out wildlife and mutated their offspring.

Despite efforts throughout the last twenty years, human development along and within the coast has replaced over 95% of the Bay’s coastal wetlands. Wetlands are defined as riparian zones, lakes, ponds, coastal marshes, and lagoons.

The last 5% is degraded. Of the 5,000+ species that call the Santa Monica Bay home, many are endangered.

The Problem at Santa Monica Pier

Perhaps no landmark of the Santa Monica Bay is more iconic than the Santa Monica Pier, a pinnacle of pollution.

Brilliant, wild lights have lit up the water’s edge since 1996, although the Pier was constructed nearly 87 years before Pacific Park was installed.

It’s no stranger to visitors, either. Between six and eight million pairs of sandals trod the famous boardwalk every year.

According to James Alamillo, programs outreach manager at Heal The Bay, the danger comes in three forms: chemical, biological and aesthetic. The aesthetic is the trash seen on the beach. The biological and chemical, of course, are invisible to the naked eye. Over 600,000 gastrointestinal illnesses each year are suspected to be the result of bacteria exposure in the Santa Monica Bay.

Both tourists and Southern California locals alike have a stake in the health of the Santa Monica Bay.

For more information about this project, view a sample from Diana Crandall’s eBook Sample Chapters.

*All historical information gathered through the City of Santa Monica Office of Pier Management and

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