One of my great frustrations as a science journalist covering environmental controversies is that they are often driven not by risks themselves, but by the entities that cause them. Thus, for example, an environmental risk caused by us – the hazardous wastes we through out in our own trash, which ends up at a municipal landfill – does not receive the same institutional attention from environmental groups and therefore from government institutions as equivalent amounts of hazardous wastes disposed of by an evil actor – Acme Mining, to make up a phony example. Even if the risk from the trash out of our own garage is demonstrably greater, Acme gets all of the attention because they’re evil.
That problem came to mind as I read a story from Friday’s Los Angeles Times (hat tip Aquafornia) about how remarkably free of pestilence LA’s beaches are this year because of the drought. There’s been no rain washing over the cities and flushing all that dog poop and stuff that leaks out of our cars and off of our chemically treated lawns into the sea:
Heal the Bay officials attributed the improvement primarily to a lack of urban storm runoff, a major source of pollution.