People walk down the Santa Monica Beach on Wednesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — Water quality around the Santa Monica Pier continues to improve as the beach surrounding the historic landmark was taken off the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “10 Repeat Offenders” list, attorneys in the environmental advocacy group’s Santa Monica office said Wednesday.

This comes on the heels of Heal the Bay’s decision in May to award the pier an A grade on its most recent beach cleanliness report card.

In a report the NRDC publishes each year that ranks beaches nationwide on a scale of zero to five stars, the pier was awarded a three-star rating. These ratings are based not only off of beach water quality, but the frequency with which the water is tested and the availability of water quality reports to the masses, said Noah Garrison, a project attorney for the NRDC’s Water Program.

City officials in recent years have dedicated resources to help improve water quality around the pier. A leaky storm drain was replaced and netting was installed to prevent birds from roosting beneath the pier and contaminating the beach with animal waste. Dry water diversions also helped redirect polluted water from dumping near the pier.

“Even on days with no rain, 50 million gallons of water flow into Santa Monica Bay because people over-water their lawns or wash their cars,” said Garrison. “This water brings in a huge amount of pollution.”

Though city initiatives have helped improve pier water quality, beach water samples still failed to meet health standards 15 percent of the time, according to the NRDC. Those exposed to polluted beach water may be subject to disease and infection.

The leading cause of beach water pollution at the pier remains storm water contamination, according to the report.

Garrison said that, despite efforts to stabilize pollution levels, the quality of the water is left to the whims of mother nature: the more it rains, the more urban runoff flows to the ocean.

To counteract this unpredictability, Garrison urges Santa Monicans to continue to employ solutions that work. Frequent water testing is also paramount, as it indicates whether clean-water efforts are effective. Last year, pier water was tested a total of 240 times, keeping officials up to date on the pier’s progress.

While Santa Monica has risen in the eyes of the NRDC, California is continuing its steady decline. Beach closings and advisory days in California have doubled to 5,756. The state harbors three of the 10 worst beaches in the nation, two of which are located in L.A. County. Persistently chronic areas include sections of Avalon Beach and Doheny State Beach.

Though the outlook may look dismal, Garrison stated that California is home to many five-star beaches, including Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

“We have world class beaches that are clean and pristine,” he added.

The nation as a whole, however, has had 24,091 beach closings and advisory days, up 29 percent from last year and the second highest level in NRDC reporting history. The NRDC proposes to solve this striking pollution increase by having governments invest in more green infrastructure.

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