Marking an encouraging trend, California beachgoers basked in a fourth consecutive summer of excellent water quality, according to the 2010 End of Summer Beach Report Card released today by environmental group Heal the Bay.
In its latest survey, Heal the Bay assigned an A-to-F letter grade to 453 beaches along the California coast, based on levels of bacterial pollution reported from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This summer, 92 percent of sites received A or B grades, which is similar to last year.
The perennially polluted Santa Monica Pier showed dramatic improvement this season, which the organization attributed to a number of water quality improvement projects over the past year. Santa Monica Pier received an A grade for the reporting period, which is a marked improvement from previous D and F grades.
The Beach Report Card is based on the routine monitoring of beaches by local health agencies and dischargers. Water samples are analyzed for bacteria that indicate pollution from numerous sources. Heal the Bay analyzes the data and assigns easy-to-understand grades to each beach. The better the grade a beach receives, the lower the risk of illness to ocean users.
Los Angeles County beaches were relatively clean this summer, with 79 percent of beaches receiving an A or B grade (similar to last year). Some of the beaches of most concern in L.A. this summer: Avalon Beach on Catalina, Long Beach’s Colorado Lagoon, Will Rogers at Temescal Canyon, and Cabrillo Beach.
Orange County once again enjoyed great water quality this summer, with 97 percent of beaches receiving an A or B grade. Poche Beach and Newport Bay at Garnet Avenue received F grades, while perennially polluted Doheny Beach received a D grade. All historically poor beaches in Dana Point (Baby beach) received A grades.
San Diego County had excellent water quality, with all 77 monitored beaches winning an A or B grade (76 As and one B).
Overall water quality at beaches throughout Ventura County was excellent again this summer and among the best in the state. All 40 monitoring locations received A grades. Unfortunately, that figure is down from the 54 historically monitored locations, due to budget cuts.
Water quality at beaches in Santa Barbara County was fairly good this summer, with 88 percent of monitored beaches receiving an A or B grade. Goleta Beach (C) and Arroyo Burro (F) were the only locations that did not earn an A or B grade.
In Central and Northern California, beach water quality was (generally speaking) very good. The beaches that received D or F grades include: Cowell Beach and Capitola Beach in Santa Cruz, Aquatic Park and Lakeshore Park in San Mateo County, and Baker Beach at Lobos Creek in San Francisco.
“We continue to see water quality improvements at California beaches,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay.
But in a very troubling twist, state funding for these routine water quality testing along California beaches may be eliminated next January due to the statewide budget crisis. If regional ocean-testing agencies can not secure the necessary funds, they will be forced to end water quality monitoring and the associated warning signs and public notification systems. Any cutbacks in testing pose a significant health risk for the millions of beachgoers who enter California oceans each year.
“Without a sustainable source of beach monitoring funding, the public health of millions of ocean users will be jeopardized,”Gold said.
In another development, Heal the Bay this year expanded the reach of its popular Report Card to the Pacific Northwest. Working with local monitoring agencies, the organization issued its first set of summertime water-quality grades for 154 beaches in Washington and Oregon.
Story based on press release