The Long Weekend Catch-Up: Two People Filmed Swimming in Lake Merritt

Your seasonal reminder that no matter how hot it may get outside, cooling off inside an SF Bay Area toxic lake is never the answer.

Friday through Monday saw the mercury rise in the SF Bay Area to summer-like temperatures. While coastal neighborhoods in, say, San Francisco and Pacifica saw little swings in temperature, more inland communities experienced highs ascending to 90-plus degrees Fahrenheit.

Oakland, for example, had highs in the mid-80s Saturday, though Sunday saw a dip down into the high-70s. That’s hot (for Bay Area standards) — and enough to drive some people into ostensible madness.

Case and point: A couple was filmed *swimming* in Lake Merritt over the long weekend.

“A couple was spotted swimming in Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA,” reads a tweeted TikTok by Bay Area State of Mind. Though the video and subsequent tweet were shared on July 4th, it’s unclear when exactly during the weekend the pair decided to take a dip in the toxic brackish lake.

The unaware among us might take no pause in this activity; taking a dive inside a lake is a perfectly fine, even common exercise in most American metros. But Lake Merrit is different; it’s toxic as-all-fuck.

For one, Lake Merritt isn’t actually a lake — it’s a tidal slough. This means it’s inherently slow to drain and can act as a petri dish for deadly microbes. The oxygen levels in the lake are naturally low; toxic algae blooms and poisonous microbes thrive beneath the surface; because the surrounding areas of Oakland sit at higher elevations, Lake Merritt is akin to the bottom of a large bowl… which means unsafe synthetic run-off produced by human activity can find its way into the lake.

Health dangers aside, there’s also a plethora of vulnerable marine fauna inside Lake Merritt. Humans aren’t inherently designed to live aquatic life, which means our surface-level undulations required to stay afloat are chaotic and can easily disturb fish and other water life. A simple backstroke could potentially send a rare leopard shark off a foraging course in search of safety because of the human-caused splashing.

No matter how hot it is, don’t swim in Lake Merritt — like, ever. Check out a public pool. Grab a gelato. Vibe next to an a/c compressor. There are many options to cool down that don’t put your health or the well-being of helpless marine life at risk.

What else happened over the long weekend? Let’s take a look.

  • Sutro Tower turned 50 years old! Unless you’ve been living under a porous rock, you’re probably aware that our city’s iconic radio tower celebrated its fifth decade on this mortal coil — which was punctuated by a dazzling display of laser cannons fixed at its base; the light display will be on show until July 8th, from sunset to midnight. More info.
  • Thousands of SF Bay Area households lost power due to the heat wave. At least 11,000 PG&E account holders experience utility outages related to this weekend’s heat wave, with most of those accounts in the East Bay. More info.
  • A slew of illegal fireworks shows were held across the Bay Area. SFPD was on site at the corner of 25th and Harrison streets yesterday to contend with an “unlawful assembly” around midnight that included multiple fireworks being fired off; drone footage showed dozens of illegal firework shows lighting up the skies around Oakland yesterday. More info

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