West Coast
San Clemente Pier City Beach / Flickr

DO CALIFORNIA BEACHES MAKE THE GRADE? Heal the Bay releases annual bacterial-pollution grades and Top 10 Beach Bummer list

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 26, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- California beach water quality sagged slightly in 2018-19, driven in large part by increased rainfall, according to the 29th annual Beach Report Card that the environmental-advocacy nonprofit released today. Heal the Bay assigned A-to-F letter grades for California beaches in the 2018-19 report, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution in the ocean measured by county health agencies.

Only 54% of the beaches received an A or B grade during wet weather, which is an eight percentage point decrease from the state's five-year average.

While scientists remain deeply concerned about water quality issues, there is some good news for beachgoers. 94% of the 500 California beaches monitored by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade for the busy summer season. During the dry winter season, 87% of beaches received an A or B grade.

Overall, 33 California beaches made it on Heal the Bay's coveted Honor Roll this year, which is lower than last year (37) likely due to higher than average rainfall. To make it on the Honor Roll the beach must be monitored year-round and score perfect A+ grades each week in all seasons and weather conditions.

10 California beaches made it on Heal the Bay's dreaded Beach Bummer List, which ranks the most polluted beaches in the state based on levels of harmful bacteria.

  1. San Clemente Pier, Orange County
  2. Clam Beach County Park, Humboldt County  
  3. Linda Mar Beach, San Mateo County  
  4. Long Beach City Beach at Coronado Ave., Los Angeles County  
  5. Cowell Beach, West of The Wharf, Santa Cruz County  
  6. Monarch Beach at Salt Creek, Orange County  
  7. Marina Del Rey Mother's Beach, Los Angeles County  
  8. Cabrillo Beach, Harborside, Los Angeles County  
  9. Keller Beach, South Beach, Contra Costa County  
  10. Aquatic Park, San Mateo County  

Polluted ocean waters pose a significant health risk to millions of ocean users in California, who can contract a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness from one swim or surf session. Coming into contact with beach water that has a grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes.

  • Northern California Beaches had excellent summer water quality on par with its five-year average of 94% A's and B's. Clam Beach in Humboldt County is the only NorCal beach on the Beach Bummer List. No NorCal beaches made the Honor Roll, in part because water quality monitoring doesn't happen year-round.
  • Central California Beaches (which includes San Francisco County) had great water quality during summer months with 92% of its beaches earning an A or B grade. Linda Mar Beach and Aquatic Park in San Mateo County are on the Beach Bummer list along with Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz County. Keller Beach South Beach is new to the Beach Bummer list. Five Central Coast beaches made the Honor Roll.
  • Southern California Beaches had excellent yet slightly below average grades with 95% of the beaches receiving A's or B's for their summer dry grades. Five of the Beach Bummers are from SoCal, including the troubled Cabrillo Beach (harborside) and Marina del Rey Mother's Beach in L.A. County. 28 out of the 33 beaches on the Honor Roll are located in SoCal.
  • More Rain, More Runoff The large amount of rain during the winter of 2018-2019 led to lower than average wet weather grades in 13 out of 17 counties in California. California often swings from extended dry periods to shorter periods of intense, wet weather. When rains do increase, as we saw in the 2018-2019 winter season, the State of California needs to do a better job of capturing, treating, and reusing runoff so it can be a resource, not a nuisance.
  • The Woolsey Fire Heal the Bay investigated the impact of the Woolsey Fire on Malibubeaches and found that water quality grades decreased dramatically after the fire. Wildfires increase runoff due to vegetation loss and infrastructure damage. As the effects of climate change increase, we can expect more wildfires and rainfall across coastal areas of California, which can have a negative impact on water quality and public health if no preventative actions are taken to protect our communities and natural habitats.

"A day at the beach shouldn't make anyone sick," said Dr. Shelley Luce, president and CEO of Heal the Bay. "We are glad to see water quality improving at some beaches, but there are no guarantees. Anyone headed to the shoreline should visit Heal the Bay's new Beach Report Card with NowCast website and app to get the latest grades and predictions."

A PDF version of the 2018-19 annual Beach Report Card is available at https://healthebay.org/beach-report-card-nowcast-2019/

Contacts
Talia Walsh, Heal the Bay, (310) 944-5615, twalsh@healthebay.org
Luke Ginger, Heal the Bay, (773) 368-7127, lginger@healthebay.org

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SOURCE Heal the Bay