2016-2017 Beach Bummer List

This site is right in front of the luxurious five-star Ritz Carlton resort in Dana Point, but one-star water quality persists in the bird-ridden spot. Local agencies have argued that the meandering portion of Salt Creek has facilitated a greater bird population, and in turn increased the amount of bird feces at this location—ultimately leading to the poor water quality. A falconry program was implemented to reduce bird-related bacterial counts at the mouth of the creek. However, potential harm to federally threatened snowy plovers during their nesting season halted the program—a decision Heal the Bay supported. The City of Dana Point has also invested in an Ozone Treatment Facility to treat dry weather runoff. Moms may think this enclosed and wave-less beach is super safe, but don’t let the name fool you. As with most enclosed waterbodies, lack of circulation leads to high levels of bacterial pollution. Unfortunately, the projects to improve water quality at Mother’s Beach have not fully resolved the water quality issues. (Such projects include a circulation device to improve water flow, bird deterrent wires, and signage to discourage the public from feeding birds or bringing their dogs to the beach.) Luffenholtz Beach is a new addition this year, making the list at the No. 8 spot. Private septic systems in Trinidad are to blame for the recent bacterial issues. Capitola has jumped on and off the Beach Bummer list repeatedly over the history of the Beach Report Card, and has returned after a three-year hiatus. This beach sits at the mouth of Soquel Creek, south of the Capitola wharf. Beaches at the mouth of storm drains, creeks or rivers pose a public health threat to the beach-going public when flowing because of bacteria exposure, even during dry weather. Despite many projects to improve beach water quality, the Santa Monica Pier continues to be a mainstay on the Beach Bummer list. Moist conditions under the pier, flocks of birds and stormdrain runoff are the likely culprits. Soon, the city will start construction on a massive underground stormwater storage tank that will capture wet weather runoff that drains to the Santa Monica Pier storm drain. The stored runoff will supply water to the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) during dry weather, which should greatly reduce the amount of stormwater that enters Santa Monica Bay from city streets and therefore improve water quality at the pier. San Diego’s La Jolla Cove is a new addition to the Bummer list this year. It is likely that the cove-like conditions (limited water circulation) exacerbate poor water quality. Agency staff who monitor water quality in the area also noted an increase in seal and sea lion activity. But whether these pinnipeds are a contributing factor to the high bacterial counts is unconfirmed. Marina Lagoon returns to the Beach Bummer list this year after a brief reprieve in the 2015 summer season, when it earned a C grade. Like many enclosed beaches, poor water circulation is an issue for the Marina Lagoon where Lakeshore Park is located. For the last eight years, Cowell Beach has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 on the Beach Bummer list (staying at the No. 1 spot for the last three years). Steel bird fencing was installed under the pier during the 2016 summer season to prevent bird roosting, but exceedances were still an issue. This site will be included in the 2017 NowCast program, where it will receive daily predictions of water quality. Shark sightings have intermittently closed stretches of this beach recently, but swimmers might be more worried about high bacteria levels. The County has conducted testing for canine and human sources, but have found none to date. Additional studies for the San Clemente Pier are being planned for the upcoming year. This is Clam Beach County Park’s fourth consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list, this year moving up and claiming the dubious No. 1 spot. Fed by Patricia Creek and Strawberry Creek, potential bacteria sources include private septic systems found upstream. The Humboldt Public Health lab is developing Bacteroides testing to help pinpoint the source.
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This site is right in front of the luxurious five-star Ritz Carlton resort in Dana Point, but one-star water quality persists in the bird-ridden spot. Local agencies have argued that the meandering portion of Salt Creek has facilitated a greater bird population, and in turn increased the amount of bird feces at this location—ultimately leading to the poor water quality. A falconry program was implemented to reduce bird-related bacterial counts at the mouth of the creek. However, potential harm to federally threatened snowy plovers during their nesting season halted the program—a decision Heal the Bay supported. The City of Dana Point has also invested in an Ozone Treatment Facility to treat dry weather runoff.

Heal the Bay analysts 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. Some 96% of beaches received A or B grades during the summer.

But pockets of fecal bacteria still trouble our waters and threaten the health of millions of beachgoers. Here’s our look at the 10 most polluted beaches in the state – our annual Beach Bummer List.

To avoid illness, ocean-goers can check the latest water quality grades at their favorite beaches, based on the latest samples, each week at beachreportcard.org (or download the Beach Report Card app for Apple or Android). For more information, check out our Beach Report Card blog post or read the full report here.