Heal The Bay has published its 2008 Beach Report Card. The good news is that the grades for water quality at Southern California beaches have improved since last year, with a fairly dry winter contributing to better dry weather quality.
The bad news is that some popular beaches continue to receive poor grades, and that there is a disparity between the good grades received by beaches during dry seasons and the bad grades during wet seasons.
Heal the Bay’s report card is based on samples taken from more than 375 locations the year round, with 517 locations sampled in dry weather from April to October. The grades given are A through F based on the risk of adverse health effects to beach-goers.
The ten worst beaches in California, starting with the worst, were (county in parentheses)
Avalon Beach, Catalina Island, (LA)
Santa Monica Pier (LA)
Poche Beach (OC)
North Beach-Doheny (OC)
Marie Canyon Storm Drain-Malibu (LA)
Cabrillo Beach harborside at lifeguard tower (LA)
Long Beach (LA)
Campbell Cove State Park Beach (Sonoma)
Clam Beach County Park (Humboldt)
Pismo Beach Pier (SLO).
Santa Monica beaches overall rated improved grades during the dry season, with 92 percent of Santa Monica Bay beaches receiving A or B grades during the AB411 (dry) period. This is considered a dramatic improvement over the last two years. Wet water quality was slightly better than last year but worse than the four-year average.
The report card noted that there were stretches of good water quality during the summer in western Malibu, from Leo Carillo Beach to Topanga, the exception being Marie Canyon Drain.
Poor grades for year-round dry weather were given to:
Paradise Cove in Malibu (F)
Marie Canyon (F)
Surfrider Beach (C)
Santa Monica Canyon (F)
Santa Monica Pier (F).
Poor water quality at Paradise Cove was attributed to runoff from Ramirez Canyon, as well as from mobile home parks in the vicinity, which have been in violation of water quality laws “for nearly a decade” according to the HTB report.
The report stated that Santa Monica “has a comprehensive plan to improve the storm drain infrastructure, diversions, and runoff facility near the pier. Unfortunately the project isn’t scheduled for completion until 2010 at the earliest.”
The delay of the runoff project, known as SMURRF (Santa Monica Urban Runoff Reuse Facility) is subjecting “tens of thousands of swimmers [to exposure] to coastal waters with extremely high fecal bacteria densities on a regular basis.” Heal The Bay is urging the City to respond to this problem with the “utmost urgency.”
Randy Wright, owner of the Horizons West surf shop, commented that “with Santa Monica Pier being one of the most popular places to surf, it’s a travesty that the water quality consistently receives failing grades.” He felt it was dangerous for tourists and people who have not been informed of the report card’s grade.
Kent Bell, a surfer from Venice, told the Mirror that he believes much of the pollution in the Santa Monica Bay comes not just from runoff but “from people who visit the beach” and leave litter of all kinds on the beach.
“I hope it improves,” he added. “Meanwhile, I continue to surf here and hope my health won’t be affected.”