Californians heading to the shoreline this summer can take heart in yet another rise in beach water quality, according to the 23rd annual Beach Report Card®. Overall, only 14 of the beaches (3%) monitored statewide received D or F grades during summer dry weather, when most beachgoers typically use the ocean. High bacteria counts at these sites are linked to such potential illnesses as stomach flu, ear infections and major skin rashes. Some 413 beaches, or 93%, received A or B grades during the summer (April-October 2012). That figure marks a 1% uptick from the previous report.
The improvement in statewide water quality during all three phases of the study’s 2012-13 reporting period can be attributed to several factors. Infrastructure improvements aimed at curbing bacterial pollution in dense urban centers have yielded results, but two years of very low rainfall in Southern California seems to have played a major role in improved grades. Rainstorms greatly increase the amount of urban runoff, the greatest source of bacterial pollution at local beaches.
Los Angeles County leads Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Bummer List, with four locations in the ranking of the state’s 10 most polluted beaches. Avalon Beach on Catalina Island, troubled by aging sewer infrastructure, holds the No. 1 spot for the fourth time in five years.
The Top 10 Beach Bummers
Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island (L.A. County)
Cowell Beach – at the wharf (Santa Cruz County)
Poche Beach (Orange County)
Cabrillo Beach harborside (Los Angeles County)
Malibu Pier (L.A. County)
Marina Lagoon (San Mateo County)
Doheny State Beach (Orange County)
Redondo Beach Pier (Los Angeles County)
Windsurfer Circle at Candlestick Point (San Francisco County)
Tijuana River Mouth (San Diego County)
Some 84% of L.A. beaches received A or B summer grades, a 4% increase from the county’s five-year seasonal average. San Diego County also scored very well, with 99% of it monitored sites earning top marks. However, troubling sewage spills closed four beaches near the Tijuana border for 139 days last year. Farther north, 94% of San Francisco Bay Area locations (San Mateo to Marin counties) received A or B grades for the summer in the report, slightly above the state’s five-year summer average.
In an alarming development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is once again recommending the complete elimination of its Beaches Grant Program, a key initiative for protecting public health at our nation’s beaches. Nearly $10 million in beach water-quality monitoring money is on the chopping block in the administration’s recently issued federal budget proposal for fiscal year 2014. Many counties in California rely solely on this money to conduct testing. Heal the Bay is urging Congress to restore funding to safeguard the 90 million people who visit U.S. beaches annually.
Heal the Bay urges beachgoers to check the latest water quality grades, based on the latest samples, each week at beachreportcard.org. Before heading to the shoreline, visitors can also access the latest grades on the go by downloading Heal the Bay’s free app for mobile devices.