It may be one of the most crowded places to swim in the summer, but Santa Monica has again ranked poorly in an annual report that grades beaches along the Californian coastline.
Despite the City of Santa Monica proactively trying to improve water quality underneath and surrounding Santa Monica Pier, Heal the Bay said Wednesday that the popular tourist destination still has plenty of work to do.
The assessment was part of Heal the Bay’s 25th annual Beach Report Card, which ranked beach at Santa Monica Pier as the sixth worst beach in California – last year it was ranked eighth.
“Santa Monica Pier has experienced consistent water problems,” said Sarah Sikich, vice president of Heal the Bay. “The city of Santa Monica has proactively tried to address these issues, with installation of bird netting, pollution reduction measures, and by checking the various pipes from the commercial facilities on the pier. However, beach water quality continues to suffer.”
However, it wasn’t all bad news along the California coastline – Heal the Bay attributing the historic drought to improving water quality.
The environmental group said record low rainfall reduced the amount of polluted runoff funneled in the ocean.
As part of the annual Beach Report Card, analysts assigned A-to-F letter grades to 92 beaches in L.A. County for three reporting periods in the 2014-2015 report, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution. Some 94 percent of beaches received A or B grades for the high-traffic summer period (April-October 2014), a 4 percent improvement from last year’s grades. The 94 percent figure also marks a 10 percent gain from the county’s summer average for the previous five years.
As for the 10 most polluted beaches in California – or “Beach Bummer List” as Heal the Bay put it much like a David Letterman top 10 list – Sikich said three L.A. County beaches on the list are repeat offenders.
These were Mother’s Beach in Marina Del Rey (number two), Santa Monica Pier (number six), and Inner Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro (number nine).
Several beaches along the Southern California coast have had some problems with oil washing up on the shore recently.
“It would not be surprising that it is, but the finger printing analyses take weeks because they have to do a detailed chemical test,” Sikich said. “We’re still waiting on the results. There are people who think it might be natural seeps, but I would be very surprised if it is due to the volume and persistence of the oil.”
Oil has to be cleaned up by hand, so dealing with the runoff from the Refugio spill requires trained individuals to walk along the beach and clean up the mess.
Authorities are being contacted by Heal the Bay to either send more trained haz-mat technicians or train more volunteers, which will hopefully be able to take some of the above beaches off of the “bummer” list in the future.
However, oil is not the only problem. Walking along the beach, several pieces of litter were found, from cigarette butts to an empty bag of chips. Santa Monica’s waters may be polluted, but the average person can help just as much by picking up their trash as well.
While the ongoing drought has played a significant role in improved grades, storm-drain diversions and other enhanced infrastructure also have paid dividends at chronically troubled beaches.
Popular but historically failing beaches at Avalon Harbor in Catalina and Doheny Beach in Orange County, for example, now regularly receive A or B grades because of multi-million dollar investment in pollution-abatement measures.
While the news is encouraging, Los Angeles County still leads the state in the number of beaches with poor water quality. Overall, one in 13 L.A. County beaches received grades of C or lower during the busy summer season. The news is worse during wet weather, when nearly half of the beaches received an F grade. The growing public health risk is troubling for the region’s sizeable number of year-round surfers, divers and other ocean-users.
To protect beachgoers from illness, Heal the Bay urges ocean lovers to check updated water quality grades for nearly 600 beaches each week at www.healthebay.org/beachreportcard.