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A Santa Monica beach just moved up a slot on a top-10 list that no one wants to be on.

The beach adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier was placed sixth on Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer list.

The Santa Monica-based environmental advocacy nonprofit ranks the most polluted beaches in California every year. The pier beach was seventh on the list last year.

Overall water quality improved locally this year thanks to the drought, Heal the Bay Vice President Sarah Sikich said at a press conference on the pier beach on Wednesday morning.

About 94 percent of Los Angeles County beaches got A or B grades in Heal the Bay’s 25th annual report, up 4 percent from last year.

“Unfortunately, when it did rain over the last year, water quality plummeted,” Sikich said, with only 63 percent of California’s monitoring locations receiving A grades.”

Nearly a quarter of the monitored beaches got F grades after the storms.

“We can’t give an exact percentage in terms of what the drought benefits are on water quality,” she said.

Over the past few years, she said, water quality has improved during the dry season.

“We really consider it to be reducing the amount of flow and storm water getting to the ocean during the drought and that’s reducing the amount of pollutants that are getting there,” Sikich said. “We do hope that this is a sign to local governments that diverting storm water, and making sure that water doesn’t get to the ocean, actually benefits water quality.”

The pier beach consistently ranks among the worst California but Heal the Bay is always quick to point out that City Hall works very hard to fight the dirty water.

“We applaud the city of Santa Monica for taking proactive actions,” Sikich said. “They are one of the places that’s actually looked at this problem and started to take measures to reduce these pollution problems and we hope that in future years it will no longer be on the list.”

Birds have sullied the water, so City Hall added nets underneath the pier. When the nets had holes, City Hall quickly patched those holes. Three years ago they improved the storm drains, which pump back into the Santa Monica urban Runoff Facility. They check the pipes for leaks regularly. Piers, Heal the Bay officials have said, are always a challenge.

“We’re hopeful that the recent Clean Beach Initiative grant received by the city will improve water quality here,” Sikich said, “as it will result in a project that takes both wet and dry weather runoff and diverts it away from the ocean.”

Poor quality beach water can cause skin rash, gastrointestinal illnesses, and sinus infections, so Sikich encourages beachgoers to check Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card before swimming near the pier.

“There are hundreds of beaches in Southern California,” she said. “Santa Monica Pier is obviously a great attraction for many people but beaches just north and just south of here score much better on the Beach Report Card.”

dave@www.smdp.com

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