Water quality at California beaches sunk across the coast this season, but increased at Santa Monica Pier Beach.
For the first time since 2013, the Santa Monica Pier Beach didn’t make Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer List, which ranks the most polluted beaches in California based on the level of harmful bacteria in the water. Santa Monica Pier has appeared on the list six times in the past decade.
Although other Southern California beaches ranked lower than usual due to increased rainfall and the Woolsey Fire, Santa Monica Pier Beach received better rankings from previous years, said Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO.
Some of the Santa Monica Pier’s improvement Luce attributed to the SMURRF reservoir, which was under construction during last year’s press conference.
“We must invest in projects that will capture and treat water before it reaches our beaches,” Luce said at Wednesday’s press conference near the Santa Monica Pier. “It’s an investment in our public health, our beaches, and in our economy.”
Three Los Angeles County beaches ranked in the 2018-2019 Beach Bummer list;
Long Beach City Beach at no. 4, Mother’s Beach no. 7, and Cabrillo Beach no. 8.
The annual Beach Report Card assigns A-F grades to 500 California beaches and includes an analysis of water quality for three time periods: summer dry season (April through Oct. 2018), winter dry weather (Nov. 2018 through March 2019) and year-round wet weather conditions.
The grading methodology is endorsed by the State Water Resources Control Board and the better the grade a beach receives, the lower risk of illness for swimmers and surfers.
While it’s the first appearance on the Beach Bummer list for Long Beach City Beach, Mother’s Beach made it’s fifth consecutive appearance. Cabrillo Beach isn’t a stranger to the list either, making it eight times in the last ten years.
A lack of circulation and waves make it easy for bacteria to invade both Mother’s Beach and Cabrillo Beach.
There were 45 beaches in California deemed unsafe to swim in, even in dry summer conditions, said Luce.
“Stay out of the water for at least three days after it rains, swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains and always check the Beach Report Card for latest water quality grades,” Luce said.
Grades were down across the board for LA County Beaches.
Summer Dry Grades were considered excellent for LA beaches, 91 percent received an A or B grade. However, this number is still down from the five-year average of 94 percent.
Seventy percent of LA beaches received an A or B during Winter Dry, a decrease from the 86 percent five-year average.
Wet Weather Grades were significantly lower than average, only 30 percent received an A or B compared to a 46 percent five-year average.
Two Los Angeles County beaches appeared on Honor Roll this year, Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro and Las Tunas Beach in Malibu. This is a drop from the eight that made it last year.
Overall, 33 California beaches made it on Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll this year, which is less than the 37 that made it last year. Honor Roll beaches must be monitored weekly and receive an A+ for all seasons and weather conditions.
The decrease in Honor Roll beaches is likely due to higher than average rainfall, stated the Beach Report Card. Los Angeles County received 15 inches of rain this year, surpassing the historical average of 10.5 inches.
A majority of Malibu beaches got poor grades even when it hadn’t been raining, said Luce.
Fifty-seven percent of Malibu beaches received A and B grades this year, a significant decrease from the 100 percent A and B gradings the beaches received the year prior to the fire.
“Fire can reduce beach water quality by destroying or damaging infrastructure and also by increasing runoff due to the loss of vegetation,” Luce said.
In addition to damaging fire conditions and significant rainfall, there were a reported 1.5 million gallons of sewage that reached water in Los Angeles County in the past year, according to the Beach Report.
“We must continue to monitor and report this data to the public so they have the information about where it’s safe to swim,” Luce said.
Check beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades.