Storm Water Pollution Prevention (NPDES)

Seal Beach's history dates all the way back to the days of the coastal Gabriellino Indians who lived on the banks of the San Gabriel River on Rancho Los Alamitos. Seal Beach became a destination location with the building of the "Joy Zone", filming of famous movies such as The "Ten Commandments", and "Rea Sea" it had some growing pains and became known as "Sin City" but revamped itself into a family friendly beach city in what is now present day Seal Beach. The one constant in the ever changing landscape of this coastal community has been the Pacific Ocean. As the beach city became of Mecca for tourists, film makers, businesses and families, concerns for trash and pollutants have grown.

Many residents are not aware that Seal Beach has two drainage systems - the sewers and the storm drains. Sewers carry waste to a sewage treatment plant where the water is cleaned and then reused or deposited into the ocean away from beaches. The storm drain system was designed to solely prevent flooding of city streets by carrying excess rainwater out to the ocean. The storm drain system contains no filters in order to move water quickly out of the area, and thus serves as the unintended function of carrying urban pollution to the ocean.

Much of Seal Beach's runoff drains into the Naval Weapons Base with the remainder split up between the Pacific Ocean, Coyote Creek and the San Gabriel River. The weapons base has a protected wetlands on site, and the San Gabriel River flows 75miles through southern Los Angeles County. The river drainage extends from high in the San Gabriel Mountains above the eastern Los Angeles Basin, across the San Gabriel Valley, down to the Pacific Ocean. The river derives its name from the Spanish Mission San Gabriel Arcángel founded in 1771, now in present day city of San Gabriel. The river was free flowing with natural banks and a riparian zonehabitat lined with riparian forests, marshes, and grasslands for much of its length and a large estuary at its mouth until the last century.

Devastating floods wreaked havoc along the San Gabriel River in the late 1800s and the early years of the 20th century. The most famous was the Los Angeles Flood of 1938, as a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began an ambitious effort to prevent flooding along the river in the lowlands. Much of the river and its tributaries downstream of Azusa were diked, channeled, lined with

riprap (rock) or paved over with concrete. Today most of the river after leaving the foothills is restrained in a broad concrete flood control channel, and impounded in places by debris and stormwater management ponddams.

The San Gabriel River forms the boundary between Los Angeles and Orange Counties for a brief stretch before merging with Coyote Creek, one of its main tributaries, near Los Alamitos. The river eventually becomes tidal and empties into the outlet of Alamitos Bay between the cities of Long Beach and Seal Beach. Many creatures reside in the waters of the San Gabriel River close to Alamitos Bay.

Seal Beach is home to many creatures great and small. Green sea turtles have been living there quietly for years a few miles up the river, sea lions are residents and head up the river now and again, fish, endangered birds, coyotes and other creatures depend on clean water to survive. Seal Beach is also home to the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, which serves as critical migration stop over and winter habitat for several species of birds.

Rainfall, especially the "first flush" carries industrial and household water mixed with urban pollutants which creates storm-water pollution. The pollutants include: oil and other automotive fluids paint and construction debris, yard and pet wastes, pesticides and litter.

Urban runoff pollution flows to the ocean through the storm drain system that takes water and debris straight from the streets to the ocean. Each day 100 million gallons of polluted urban runoff enter the ocean untreated, leaving toxic chemicals in our surf and tons of trash in our beaches.

Urban runoff pollution contaminates the ocean, closes beaches, harms aquatic life and increases the risk of inland flooding by clogging gutters and catch basins. Overall, storm water pollution costs the Los Angeles area per year.

City of Seal Beach Pier

To help preserve the quality of life for our residents, beach goers, and sea life, The City of Seal Beach has implemented a number of programs to help reduce the amount of pollutants mixing with storm and urban runoff. By implementing these programs, we hope to not only clean up our water, but preserve aquatic life for years to come. Here is a sample of those programs:

  • A Stormwater Pollution Prevention Ordinance in place.
  • All residential and commercial streets including City owned and/or operated parking lots are included in regularly scheduled street sweeping.
  • Approximately 143 businesses are inspected on an annual basis.
  • If you see a catch basin that is full – please don’t hesitate to call us at (562) 431-2527 ext 1317. 
  • Implementation of Best Management Practices for all City construction and maintenance activities.
  • City employees routinely attend training to ensure awareness and use of BMPs on construction and maintenance projects.
  • We have implemented an active public outreach and education program.
  • We are now requiring special treatment systems for all high priority projects.

Here is what you can do!

As a resident or business owner in Seal Beach there are some simple steps you can take to help prevent stormwater pollution.

  • Vehicle Maintenance: Keep your vehicles in good running order and perform routine maintenance to prevent leaks from oil and other car fluids. Leaks from vehicles on the ground often times are a primary source of pollution in runoff.
  • Spills: If you experience or encounter a spill, don't hose it down into the gutter or storm drains. The best thing to do is clean it up with absorbent materials such as kitty litter. This allows for prompt cleanup of all spills. Then simply dispose of absorbent materials in trash.
  • Car Washing: Take your vehicle to a car wash instead of washing at home. If you choose to wash at home, divert the wash water onto your lawn or garden and use a biodegradable, phosphate-free detergent. Using a bucket (not a running hose) to wash and rinse your car, conserves water.
  • Recycle your used oil: Oil doesn’t wear out and can be recycled to use again in engines and some motors, but also other uses as well. We have 1 used oil recycling centers.
  • HHW: Please dispose of hydraulic, transmission, and radiator fluids at a Household Hazardous Waste Facility.
    • Never clean paintbrushes or rinse paint containers into a street, gutter, or storm drain.
    • For information on what can be picked up curbside click here 
  • Yard Maintenance: 
    • Leaves: Don't blow or rake leaves into streets, gutters, or storm drains.
    • Fertilizers: Use organic or non-toxic fertilizers. There are a number of organic options at
    • Don't over fertilize and don't fertilize near ditches, streams, or other water bodies.
    • Pesticides: Use non-toxic pesticide alternatives whenever possible. Organic Pesticides are a good option. Here are a few websites to check out:
  • Pet Waste:
    • Pick up after your pets. All of them. Pet waste from dogs and cats if left on yours or someone else’s lawn can easily end up in the storm drain and pollute the waters they enter.
  • Pool Maintenance: Make sure your pool is algae free and dechlorinated before pumping to the street. Please do not drain your salt water pools to the street. Salt water negatively impacts our native flora and fauna. Fresh water animals (such as frogs and tadpoles) will not survive any influx of salt water into their habitats.

Useful Links