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Dirty Water is the riveting story of how Howard Bennett, a Los Angeles schoolteacher with a gift for outrageous rhetoric, fought pollution in Santa Monica Bay--and won. The story begins in 1985, when many scientists considered the bay to be one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. The insecticide DDT covered portions of the sea floor. Los Angeles discharged partially treated sewage into its waters. Lifeguards came down with mysterious illnesses. And Howard Bennett happily swam in it every morning.
By accident, Bennett learned that Los Angeles had applied for a waiver from the Clean Water Act to continue discharging sewage into the bay. Incensed that he had been swimming in dirty water, Bennett organized oddball coalition to orchestrate stunts such as wrapping brown ribbon around LA's city hall and issuing Dirty Toilet Awards to chastise the city's administration. This is the fast-paced story of how this unusual cast of characters created an environmental movement in Los Angeles that continues to this day with the nationally recognized Heal the Bay. Character-driven, compelling, and uplifting, Dirty Water tells how even the most polluted water can be cleaned up-by ordinary people.
List of Illustrations
Prologue. Surfer Scientist
1. The Swimmer
2. The Witness
3. The Coalition
5. The Press Conference
6. City Hall
7. The Activist
8. The Second Hearing
9. The Scientist
10. The Politician
11. The Brown Ribbon
12. Heal the Bay
13. The Dirty Toilet Awards
14. The Decision
15. Friend of the Court
16. Outsiders and Insiders
17. The 50 Percent Job
Bill Sharpsteen is a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, and The Washington Post. He has also worked as an award-winning documentary producer.
“[Sharpsteen] deserves some props. Not only does he meticulously lay out the story of efforts to clean up Santa Monica Bay . . . but he does it in a compelling style.”—Glen Martin California Lawyer
recounts the birth of the Los Angeles region's coastal water quality movement through the initial actions of an ocean swimming teacher: Howard Bennett. The story of Heal the Bay's humble beginnings followed by remarkable success at a time when most of the world's coastal waters and marine ecosystems degraded dramatically, offers hope and guidance to those willing to fight for our oceans.”—Mark Gold, President, Heal the Bay
“This is environmental history told with the readability of an adventure story. From the publicity-generating antics of schoolteacher Howard Bennett while founding a campaign to stop sewage sludge from entering the ocean, through the ongoing successes of the group Heal the Bay, this book shows how the concern and dedication of citizen activists remains the key to successful environmental battles everywhere.”—David Carle, author of Introduction to Water in California
and Water and the California Dream
“Here's a refreshingly redemptive story about nature and California. Bill Sharpsteen reminds us that individual actors and collective decisions make a difference in the face of obscene environmental degradation; he reminds us that the history of California is inextricably tied to the well-being of the Pacific coast; and he insists that the watchdog work of minding the human impact upon natural systems must be shouldered by all of us.”—William Deverell, Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West