2017-06-22 / Health & Wellness

Rains take toll on water quality

By John Loesing

REFRESHING—This beach at Leo Carrillo State Park earns an A-plus rating for its summer water quality. 
DAVE McMARTIN/Acorn Newspapers REFRESHING—This beach at Leo Carrillo State Park earns an A-plus rating for its summer water quality. DAVE McMARTIN/Acorn Newspapers The much-needed 2017 winter storms put an end to California’s historic drought, but all that rain came at a cost—poor beach water quality.

Bacterial pollution at some of California’s most popular beaches spiked dramatically in 2016-17, according to Heal the Bay’s 27th annual Beach Report Card released June 15.

The report assigned A-to-F letter grades to 416 beaches along the California coast for three reporting periods in 2016-2017, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution.

Local beaches analyzed in the report fared much better during the summer months when rain runoff is not a factor.

Heavy downpours last winter created billions of gallons of polluted wash, which entered the storm drains and spilled into the ocean. Nearly half of the 85 beaches that Los Angeles County monitored year-round last year earned F grades from Heal the Bay during wet weather. That’s in marked contrast to the summer reporting period (April to October 2016) when no beaches received failing marks.

Southern California accounted for five sites listed on Heal the Bay’s infamous Beach Bummer List, which ranks the 10 most polluted beaches in the state:

No. 2 San Clemente Pier

Recent shark sightings have closed stretches of this beach recently. But swimmers might be more worried about bacteria levels.

No. 5 La Jolla Cove

A new addition to the Bummer List, this San Diego beach sits in an enclosed area with limited water circulation. It’s also home to growing seal and sea lion populations.

No. 6 Santa Monica Pier

Moist conditions, flocks of birds and storm drain runoff are likely culprits. Construction starts soon on a 1.6-million gallon storm water storage tank that should help.

No. 9 Mother’s Beach/Marina Del Rey

Don’t let the name fool you. Lack of circulation means unsafe levels of bacteria. The County has installed a circulation device and bird deterrents.

No. 10 Monarch State Beach

This stretch of sand north of Salt Creek sits adjacent to the five-star Ritz Carlton resort in Dana Point.

“We want people catching waves, not bugs, when they head to the beach,” said Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s vice president and longtime ocean policy advocate.

“The reassuring news is that if you swim at an open-ocean beach in the summer away from storm drains and creek mouths you statistically have very little risk of getting ill,” Sikich said.

The region needs to do a better job of capturing runoff and recycling it before it hits shorelines, Heal the Bay says.

The group said if Southern California cities had the infrastructure in place, then they could have captured and reused much of the 100 billion gallons of stormwater that drenched the region last winter.

Summer is a much safer time to swim, the report said.

Most all of L.A. County beaches received A grades for the high-traffic period between April and October 2016, a 4 percent uptick from last year’s report. The beaches include Leo Carillo, Escondido, Latigo Canyon, Malibu Surfrider, Topanga and Little Dume.

The news for summer beachgoers is equally encouraging in Ventura County where 40 monitored beaches scored a high grade, including County Line, Staircase, Sycamore Cove, Thornhill Broome and Point Mugu.

Four L.A. County beaches— including Malibu’s El Matador and Malibu Point—placed on Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll, which recognizes beaches that score perfect A-plus grades for the report’s three time periods. Ventura County had one honor roll beach, Silver Strand in Oxnard.

How do swimmers and surfers stay safe?

Check www.beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades.

Avoid enclosed beaches.

Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains and piers.

Wait at least three days after rainfall before entering the ocean.

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