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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Beach Report Card

This is a developing story and we will update information as new details come to light.

UPDATE: 10:25 am Pacific Time on August 4, 2021.

The City of Los Angeles Sanitation & Environment (LASAN) launched a new webpage that addresses sewage discharge at the Hyperion Plant in El Segundo. It briefly covers the cause of the catastrophic incident and the recovery effort underway. 

We want you to be aware of the data table (with multiple tabs) at the bottom of the page. It shows the pollutant levels in the effluent (via sampling results of what Hyperion is discharging from the 5-mile outfall), equipment status, odor monitoring results, offshore monitoring results for bacteria, and links to other data, which don’t appear to be working or filled in yet. “Effluent” is the treated wastewater that Hyperion releases to the ocean. In other words, influent is what comes into the plant (raw sewage and other debris), and effluent is what goes out of the plant (typically treated wastewater that has to meet certain standards).

VIEW LASAN’S HYPERION 2021 RECOVERY PAGE

We will be reviewing the data closely and providing a deeper analysis for you. But, our first impressions are that exceedances (aka violations) are occurring for multiple parameters in the effluent since July 11-12, indicating that LASAN is violating their permit by continuing to discharge inadequately treated sewage into the Bay, and is still not able to fully treat sewage. What is even more concerning is that the levels of certain pollutants appear to be increasing over the last couple of weeks (the weekly average numbers are getting larger). These high levels of total suspended solids (TSS), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), settleable solids, turbidity, and oil & grease may have long-term negative impacts on marine life and ecosystems. 

Our team will provide more information about the pollutants and what the potential impacts could be for the Santa Monica Bay later this week.

Despite this alarming data, recent beach water quality tests have indicated the water in the Santa Monica Bay is safe for human recreation. All beach advisories, except for Avalon Beach on Catalina Island, have been lifted because water samples have not exceeded State water quality standards. This is good news for beachgoers, but we recommend that you always check the latest beach conditions at the LA County Department of Public Health’s website and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card.

 

UPDATE: 8:00 am Pacific Time on August 3, 2021.

LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) released an update last night that ocean water samples collected at the following locations have met State water quality standards and beach advisories have been lifted:

  • Dockweiler State Beach
    • Ballona Creek (Near Dockweiler Tower 40)
    • Culver Blvd storm drain
    • Imperial Highway storm drain
    • Westchester storm drain
  • Pico-Kenter storm drain (Santa Monica Beach)
  • Topanga Canyon Lagoon (Topanga Canyon Beach in Malibu)

A warning is still in place for Avalon Beach at Catalina Island (50 feet east of the pier). The Department of Public Health continues cautioning all to be careful of swimming, surfing, and playing in this area.

Thanks for staying updated.

 

UPDATE: 11:46 am Pacific Time on July 30, 2021.

We are shocked that LA Sanitation & Environment (LASAN) has continued to release inadequately treated sewage into the Bay. It’s been over two weeks since the 17 million gallon sewage spill, and we are now learning that the Hyperion plant is not able to fully treat sewage.

The discharge contains bacteria and viruses as well as organic matter that causes low oxygen levels in ocean waters – the impacts on human health and marine life can be significant and very damaging. LASAN should have notified the public and stakeholders who have been tracking the spill results closely for the last two weeks. We don’t know if LASAN has increased monitoring to assess the impacts of the partially treated discharge – that needed to start immediately – and going forward we need transparency in order to ensure appropriate actions are taking place to assess impacts, protect people and wildlife, and pursue fines and mitigation measures to the maximum extent.

Heal the Bay was founded in the 1980s by local activists who refused to accept partially treated sewage being dumped into the Bay by Hyperion. It’s now 30 plus years later – great progress has been made, but without watchdogs we’re at risk of repeating past mistakes.

The LA Regional Water Quality Control Board has taken immediate action to boost monitoring in the Santa Monica Bay.

Last night we received a notice from the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) issuing an order to the City of Los Angeles LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) Hyperion Treatment Plant to provide monitoring and reporting related to the discharge of sewage on July 11 and 12.

The order details how the flooding at the plant led to non-operational equipment resulting in reduced efficiency of treatment and a reduction in the quality of the discharge from the 5 mile outfall. The order documents that since the initial incident, Hyperion has violated its discharge permit by releasing effluent that is in exceedance of limits for parameters including total suspended solids (TSS), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), turbidity, and settleable solids.

These exceedances will result in fines – however, they could have negative impacts on human health and the marine environment. We are glad to see that the Regional Board is requiring daily offshore monitoring and submission of daily monitoring and status reports. The offshore monitoring appears to include four stations, each to be tested at three depths (<1m, 15 meters, and at the outfall depth). Testing at these locations must be done for 12 parameters, including bacteria levels, which are indicative of impacts to human health.

The latest advisory from the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) states that they are continuing to test shoreline bacteria levels daily. Heal the Bay scientists and experts will be reviewing the locations and frequency of testing today by DPH and LASAN to ensure that the frequency and spatial coverage is protective of public health. And we will continue to ask for rapid methods to be used for detection of bacterial pollution – the methods being used now take 18-24 hours to obtain results and then additional time for that information to get to the public. Rapid methods would allow for more real-time results to be available to the public. 

The LA County Board of Supervisors and LA City Council members have initiated a full investigation into the 17 million gallon spill and continued discharges from Hyperion.

In addition to the Water Board’s actions outlined above, the LA County Board of Supervisors has requested a full investigation within 30 days (scroll down to our last update on 7/29 for more info). And the LA City Council is demanding a detailed report and action plan too, which includes instructing LASAN to “look for engineering opportunities during repairs to begin transforming the facility to recycle 100% of wastewater as part of the city’s Operation NEXT,” according to the Daily Breeze.

Is it safe to swim in the Bay today?

If you are deciding whether or not you should go into the water at LA’s beaches this weekend, we want to be clear: there are potential health risks at some locations.

Water quality tests from sites across the Bay have indicated high bacteria levels around El Segundo, Dockweiler, and Venice beach areas. These beach areas are under an advisory and should be avoided until tests indicate the water quality is good.

If you are heading to other areas in the Bay, we recommend that you check the latest beach conditions at the LA County Department of Public Health’s website and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card (so you can avoid beach areas impacted by bacterial-pollution issues). Conditions can change rapidly, so pay attention to beach postings and remember there is a 24-hour lag between water testing and posted warnings.

Message us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or contact us online if you need any help getting started with our Beach Report Card website or app — or if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.

UPDATE: 11:00 am Pacific Time on July 29, 2021.

One week after the massive raw sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay from the Hyperion Plant in El Segundo, the LA County Board of Supervisors met and heard an update on what went wrong, particularly related to notification protocols, and what next steps are needed. Heal the Bay staff called in to the hearing to speak on the item, but we were not able to because they cut off public comment after 1 hour for all items on the agenda. We were glad to hear at least three people speak passionately on the issue. We did send in a letter, supporting the motion as well as offering additional recommendations. You can read our letter and other public correspondence on the item here: http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/160317.pdf

The agenda item was heard around 3:15pm and included a brief presentation on the expedited report from CityGate that Supervisor Hahn requested right after the massive release of raw sewage. The findings of the report are quite disturbing and highlight multiple failures in communication and notification, primarily by the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH).

Next, Supervisor Hahn asked a series of questions of Dr. Barbara Ferrer (Director, LA County Dept Public Health), Gary Jones (Director, LA County Dept of Beaches & Harbors), and Fernando Boiteux, (Chief, LA County Lifeguard Division). Dr. Ferrer started by apologizing to the Board and the public; she took full responsibility for the failures and stated that DPH has already made fixes and will continue to improve training, processes, and protocols. Dr. Ferrer said that what happened was unacceptable and that it will never happen again. We appreciated hearing this apology and DPH taking responsibility for their actions (or lack of actions) and the commitment to do better.

Supervisor Hahn asked Dr. Ferrer about ensuring that public health – both in the water and in the community – continue to be protected as the Hyperion plant recovers from the major failure and undergoes construction to get back fully online. El Segundo neighborhoods are bearing the brunt of unbearable odors and LASAN is offering vouchers for air conditioners and hotel rooms for those affected. Dr. Ferrer assured Supervisor Hahn that water quality would continue to be tested and that the DPH team would be conducting door-to-door outreach in the community to ensure that affected residents know how to contact them, report odors, and get access to resources.

Gary Jones from Beaches & Harbors and Fernando Boiteux from County Lifeguards also answered questions about when they received notice of the sewage discharge, what could be improved in communications, and how beach closures should ideally proceed.

The motion was passed, which will result in a more in-depth After Action Report to be produced in 30 days. This follow-up report will detail what happened, where the failures occurred, and recommendations for fixing failures and ensuring this never happens again.

Heal the Bay greatly appreciated the updates and the transparency and accountability that the report and hearing provided. We will be actively following this issue and are engaging with Supervisor Hahn’s office and agencies to offer our recommendations and participate in the process. We will continue to hold agencies accountable and ensure that there are appropriate repercussions for the multiple failures that occurred.

 

UPDATE: 6:00 pm Pacific Time on July 23, 2021.

A report was released this week, and made public today, about the recent 17-million gallon sewage spill from the Hyperion plant in El Segundo. “The handling of this release and the necessary public notification were failures, the initial report concluded.

The LA County Board of Supervisors will be hearing this expedited report on Tuesday, July 27 starting at 9:30 am. The Board will be voting on a motion to get this update as well as to request a more detailed “After Action” report within 30 days. Heal the Bay will be supporting this motion by sending in a letter and calling in to give oral testimony at the hearing. We will be suggesting additional recommendations, such as implementing rapid testing methods for water quality and tracking the plume through satellite imagery and other methods.

Take action!

Watch the hearing, send in an email or a letter, and try to call in to the hearing to speak (this can be challenging to do as speaking time is limited).

TUNE IN ON JULY 27:
Agenda and info on how to watch and give comment (on the first page): https://bos.lacounty.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=AezaZ2KttC4%3d&portalid=1 (agenda item #36)

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD IN ADVANCE:
To send an email or a letter in advance of the hearing (select item 36): https://publiccomment.bos.lacounty.gov/

We appreciate Supervisor Hahn’s leadership on this and hope to work collaboratively with County and City agencies to ensure this never happens again. And, if it does, that the public is notified immediately and effectively.

UPDATE: 9:10 pm Pacific Time on July 14, 2021.

This evening the LA County Department of Public Health lifted beach closures at Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach because water samples taken over the past two days have not shown dangerous levels of fecal-indicator bacteria. Based on these results, it appears safe at most locations in the Santa Monica Bay, but we urge you to exercise caution by regularly checking the LA County Department of Public Health website for water conditions and beach closures at PublicHealth.LACounty.gov/Beach and Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card.

There are four sites in the Santa Monica Bay that currently do exceed State standards and coming into contact with water at these locations could cause illness – it is unclear if these exceedances are due to the sewage spill, recent rainfall, or something else:

  • Topanga County Beach at the Topanga Canyon Lagoon
  • Will Rogers State Beach at the Santa Monica Canyon storm drain
  • Santa Monica State Beach at the Santa Monica Pier
  • Manhattan County Beach at the 28th Street storm drain

Heal the Bay won’t let up on pushing for improvements that prevent sewage spills, advance water quality testing methods, and ensure public notifications happen swiftly and equitably. Thanks to everyone in the community for reaching out, voicing concerns, asking questions, staying informed, and most importantly protecting each other by sharing critical updates. This community is strong. It is amazing to see us spring into action. Thank you.

More to come on next steps, so you can take action to hold polluters accountable and to prevent this from happening again.

 

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UPDATE: 7:15 pm Pacific Time on July 13, 2021.

We have some preliminary good news to share — but don’t rush back to the water quite yet.

Water samples taken on Monday, July 12 by LA City Bureau of Sanitation & the Environment (LASAN) and LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) do not show high levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB). FIB, in significant quantities, indicate the presence of harmful pathogens in the water. Samples were taken at numerous locations at the shoreline and offshore, at various depths.

While this is good news, the beaches are still closed and will remain closed until two consecutive days of sampling show safe water quality. So, samples were taken again today and if they show low levels of bacteria, closures will be lifted tomorrow.

These results are very preliminary since the samples were taken Monday morning and early afternoon. Tides, currents and wind continue to move water around and we don’t know where the contamination may have ended up.

We also don’t know what the water quality was before the samples were collected – i.e. on Sunday evening and early Monday morning. It is possible that bacteria levels were higher then, and that people who got in the water were unknowingly exposed to poor water quality.

We appreciate that LASAN and DPH have been forthcoming with us on the results, but we feel strongly that this information should be spread widely to the general public, as early as possible. LA County DPH is responsible for notifying the public of dangerous levels of contamination. Given the significant amount of raw sewage released, nearby beaches should have been closed immediately. Delaying public notification by 12-24 hours is not acceptable.

We have heard from many concerned folx that they were at the beaches on Sunday evening and Monday all day without any knowledge of the spill, or any ability to take precautions. We will be working with City and County agencies to establish protocols that better protect public health. We also urge LASAN and DPH to use rapid methods to detect contamination more quickly. DNA-based lab methods like PCR are readily available and provide reliable results in minutes or hours, rather than the 24-hour process required for traditional bacterial monitoring. Using methods like these, in addition to traditional methods, as long as they are accompanied with good public notification, would help get critical information to our many ocean users much more quickly and could prevent significant harm to LA residents and visitors.

You can check the status of beach closures and conditions on LA County’s recorded information hotline, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-525-5662. Information about beach closures and conditions is also available online at: PublicHealth.LACounty.gov/Beach

We will continue to track this issue and keep you informed.

 

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UPDATE: 3:20 pm Pacific Time on July 12, 2021.

When did the spill occur?
The sewage spill started at 7 pm on 7/11/2021 and stopped at about 5 am on 7/12/2021. We are told by City of LA’s Bureau of Sanitation that the spill was stopped early this morning at around 5 am and all sewage is now being treated normally.

How much was spilled?
We understand 17 million gallons of raw sewage were spilled through the 1-mile outfall, which is directly offshore from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in El Segundo.

Which beaches are impacted?
Currently Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach are closed to the public. The City of Los Angeles and LA County Department of Public Health are testing beaches and water in the Santa Monica Bay. More information can be found at the LA County Department of Public Health’s website.

What should the public do to protect themselves?
We recommend the public stay out of the water in the Santa Monica Bay until further notice. Also, check the Beach Report Card for the latest ocean water quality alerts in California, and review the River Report Card for water quality information about freshwater swimming holes in Los Angeles County.

What issues does this cause to people and to ocean wildlife?
Bacteria and viruses in raw sewage are extremely dangerous to people and can carry a variety of diseases. Debris such as tampons and plastic trash, when released into the Bay, can harbor bacteria and can cause entanglement of wildlife, but it seems in this case those debris were successfully filtered out of the spill before it made it to the Bay.

Why did this happen?
We understand the inflow to the Hyperion plant in El Segundo was severely clogged and flooded the facility. The sewage left the facility untreated through the 1-mile pipe and outfall.

What is the source and how can we hold them accountable for pollution?
This is fully the responsibility of the City of LA and their Bureau of Sanitation. The City normally does a very good job of containing and fully treating hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage every day – but when spills happen the City must move quickly to warn the public, and must discover and fix the cause to prevent future spills.

How can sewage spills be prevented?
Proper maintenance as well as people not flushing trash items such as plastic trash into the system are the best preventative measures.

How often do sewage spills occur?
The last major sewage spill in Los Angeles County was in 2015. However, smaller sewage spills are not an uncommon occurrence. In 2020 to 2021, seventy-five sewage spills sent a total of 346,888 gallons into rivers, lakes, and streams within Los Angeles County. One 222,542 gallon spill in February 2021 closed all the beaches in Long Beach; this area is monitored by Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card. A total of 39,621 gallons of sewage were spilled into the Los Angeles River, and 140 gallons were spilled into Las Virgenes Creek; both waterways are monitored by Heal the Bay’s River Report Card.

For more information about sewage spills, visit LA County Department of Public Health’s website.

 

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Watch our IG Live below where we answer your questions with our CEO Shelley Luce and Communications Director Talia Walsh.

 

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On the heels of the 17-million-gallon sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay on July 11-12, Heal the Bay and the World Surf League—two Santa Monica-based organizations—are partnering to expand Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card with NowCast to give beachgoers more information, more swiftly, about potential risks from poor ocean water quality at California’s most popular beaches and surf spots.

Heal the Bay and the World Surf League (WSL) are announcing a multi-year partnership in support of Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, activating local surfers to protect the health of 150 million beachgoers in California, and increasing surfing community outreach through social media and local competition events in California.

Summer is here, temperatures are hot, and more people are flocking to the beach. With roughly a thousand miles of shoreline, California has one of the longest and also most diverse coasts of any state in the USA. California offers an incredible array and variety of beaches and waves. Several offer pristine bays with 30-feet visibility underwater, others iconic views and world class waves.

While the waves may look clear, many beachgoers have no idea they might be swimming in a bacteria-polluted area, especially near piers, storm drains, and enclosed harbors with poor water circulation. One in 25 beachgoers will get sick swimming or surfing in polluted water near a flowing storm drain. Youth and seniors are particularly vulnerable to illnesses related to bacterial pollution.

“As a surfer, I have spent a ton of time in the water since I was a little kid. The water quality at my local beaches is something I have always been observant of. Unfortunately, there have been many times where the water quality has seemed very low and I’ve gotten sick from surfing in dirty water. I’m thrilled the World Surf League is partnering with Heal the Bay on the Beach Report Card for California. Everyone deserves access to clean water to surf, swim, and enjoy this precious resource – our one ocean!” says Conner Coffin, WSL Championship Tour surfer.

The Beach Report Card is Heal the Bay’s education, advocacy, and public health notification tool for people concerned about the water quality at their favorite beaches across the state of California. The latest beach water quality grades are displayed alongside historical trends. The program also has science and policy initiatives to improve water quality, advance water quality testing methods, and ensure beachgoers have equitable and immediate access to beach water quality information through environmental and public health legislation and regulation.

Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO & President says, “We’re excited to announce our partnership with the World Surf League. Clean ocean water has multiple benefits. It sustains healthy ecosystems and thriving wildlife, it mitigates impacts from the climate crisis, and it provides a safe place to enjoy the outdoors and cool off. We thank our partners at the World Surf League for working together with us to protect clean water starting in Santa Monica, stretching up and down the California coastline, and rippling out globally.”

The World Surf League is sponsoring the Beach Report Card for three-years, supporting the popular Annual Report, which highlights the coveted Honor Roll list as well as the notorious Beach Bummers list. The World Surf League is also investing in the growth of NowCast, Heal the Bay’s daily water quality prediction program.

“The WSL is incredibly proud to partner with Heal the Bay to provide tools and resources such as the Beach Report Card for all ocean lovers to be informed about water quality prior to heading to their favorite beach. As a global sports league, the future of our sport depends on a healthy ocean. Our focus as a league is to protect the ocean and beaches by inspiring climate action, preventing pollution, and conserving our coasts through campaigns like We Are One Ocean,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO.

Heal the Bay is expanding NowCast to include 40-50 beaches over the next three years.

About Heal the Bay and the Beach Report Card

Heal the Bay is an environmental nonprofit dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds in Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy, and clean. We use science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill our mission.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is the only comprehensive analysis of coastline water quality in California. We provide water quality grades for more than 700 beaches weekly from Washington to Mexico during the peak beach-going season, with approximately 500 locations in California. Each location is assigned an A to F grade based on the health risks of swimming, surfing, and entering the water at that location.

The Beach Report Card is available for free at BeachReportCard.org and as an app on iPhone and Android devices.

About the WSL 

Established in 1976, the World Surf League is the home of the world’s best surfing. A global sports, media and entertainment company, the WSL oversees international tours and competitions, a studios division creating over 500+ hours of live and on-demand content, and via affiliate WaveCo, the home of the world’s largest high performance, human-made wave. Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, the WSL has regional offices in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and EMEA. The WSL is dedicated to changing the world through the inspirational power of surfing by creating authentic events, experiences, and storytelling to inspire a growing, global community to live with purpose, originality, and stoke.

For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.

 



Heal the Bay releases scientific reports and annual bacterial-pollution rankings for hundreds of beaches in California and dozens of freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County during 2020 – 2021.

The thirty-first annual Beach Report Card study assigns A-to-F letter grades for 500 California beaches based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution in the ocean measured by County health agencies. In addition, we ranked water quality at 28 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County during summer 2020 and shared findings from the third annual River Report Card.

Highlights from the Beach Report Card

Hotter days are here! Beach days and river trips are at an all-time high. The good news is California beaches had excellent water quality in summer 2020. 93% of the California beaches monitored by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade, which is on par with the five-year average.

Even so, our scientists remain deeply concerned about ocean water quality. Polluted waters pose a significant health risk to millions of people in California. People who come in contact with water with a C grade or lower are at a greater risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes.

Beaches and rivers usually have high-risk water quality following a rain event. Less rain typically means that reduced amounts of pollutants, including bacteria, are flushed through storm drains and rivers into the ocean. However, this wasn’t the case this past winter. Rainfall across coastal counties in California was 41 percent lower than the historical average. Yet only 57% of California beaches had good or excellent grades during wet weather, which was worse than average. The lower grades are in part due to the high percentage of “first flush” samples in the wet weather dataset.

“As a surfer, I have spent a ton of time in the water since I was a little kid. The water quality at my local beaches is something I have always been observant of. Unfortunately there have been many times where the water quality has seemed very low and I’ve gotten sick from surfing in dirty water. I’m thrilled the World Surf League is partnering with Heal The Bay on the Beach Report Card for California. Everyone deserves access to clean water to surf, swim, and enjoy this precious resource – our one ocean!” –Conner Coffin

 

Download Beach Report Card

Read Beach Report Card summary en Español

 

California’s Beach Bummer List
Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer List ranks the most polluted beaches in California based on levels of harmful bacteria in the ocean. The 2020-2021 Beach Bummer List includes beaches in San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Humboldt, and Santa Cruz Counties.

  1. Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Tijuana River mouth – San Diego County
  2. Foster City, Erckenbrack Park – San Mateo County
  3. Capitola Beach, west of jetty – Santa Cruz County
  4. Foster City, Gull Park – San Mateo County
  5. Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, between Lifeguard Tower and Boat dock – Los Angeles County
  6. Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, 3/4 miles north of Tijuana River – San Diego County
  7. Clam Beach County Park at Strawberry Creek – Humboldt County
  8. Foster City, Marlin Park – San Mateo County
  9. Candlestick Point, Windsurfer Circle – San Francisco County
  10. East Beach at Mission Creek – Santa Barbara County

California’s Beach Honor Roll List
Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll List includes 35 California beaches that scored perfect water quality grades year-round (compared to 42 beaches in the prior year). Most beaches on the Honor Roll are in Southern California because many Counties in Central California and Northern California do not sample frequently enough during the winter months. Orange County had the most beaches on the Honor Roll. Los Angeles, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Alameda Counties also had beaches with perfect water quality grades.

  1. Crown Beach, at Sunset Rd. – Alameda County
  2. Royal Palms State Beach – Los Angeles County
  3. Leo Carrillo Beach, at Arroyo Sequit Creek – Los Angeles County
  4. Puerco State Beach, at creek mouth – Los Angeles County
  5. Las Flores State Beach, at Las Flores Creek – Los Angeles County
  6. Broad Beach, at Trancas Creek – Los Angeles County
  7. Escondido State Beach, at Escondido Creek – Los Angeles County
  8. Nicholas Beach, at San Nicholas Canyon Creek – Los Angeles County
  9. Newport Bay, Promontory Point – Orange County
  10. Crystal Cove (CSDOC) – Orange County
  11. Newport Beach, at Orange Street – Orange County
  12. Newport Beach, at 52nd/53rd Street – Orange County
  13. Balboa Beach Pier – Orange County
  14. Balboa Beach, The Wedge – Orange County
  15. Crystal Cove – Orange County
  16. 1000 Steps Beach, at 9th St. – Orange County
  17. North Aliso County Beach – Orange County
  18. Treasure Island Beach – Orange County
  19. Carlsbad, at Encina Creek – San Diego County
  20. Carlsbad, at Palomar Airport Rd. San Diego County
  21. Solana Beach, Tide Beach Park at Solana Vista Dr. – San Diego County
  22. Guadalupe Dunes – Santa Barbara County
  23. El Capitan State Beach – Santa Barbara County
  24. China Beach, at Sea Cliff Ave. – San Francisco County
  25. Ocean Beach, at Lincoln Way – San Francisco County
  26. Sewers at Silver Shoals Dr. – San Luis Obispo County
  27. Morro Bay City Beach, at Atascadero – San Luis Obispo County
  28. Pismo State Beach, 330 yards north of Pier Ave. – San Luis Obispo County
  29. Hollywood Beach, at Los Robles St. – Ventura County
  30. C.I. Harbor, at Hobie Beach Lakeshore Dr. – Ventura County
  31. Oil Piers Beach, south of storm drain – Ventura County
  32. Silverstrand, at Sawtelle Ave. – Ventura County
  33. Ormond Beach, 50 yards north of Oxnard Industrial drain – Ventura County
  34. Ormond Beach, at Arnold Rd. – Ventura County
  35. Faria County Park, at stairs – Ventura County

Highlights from the River Report Card

Heal the Bay graded 28 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County within the L.A. River, San Gabriel River, and Malibu Creek Watersheds during summer 2020. 70% of the freshwater grades indicated a low risk of illness, 17% indicated a moderate risk of illness, and 13% indicated a high risk of illness.

 

Download River Report Card

Read River Report Card summary en Español

 

L.A.’s Freshwater Fails List
Top 9 river recreation sites in Los Angeles County that are high-risk places to swim or boat.

  • 1. Tujunga Wash at Hansen Dam – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 2. L.A. River at Rattlesnake Park – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 3. San Gabriel River Below North and West Forks – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 4. L.A. River at Middle of Sepulveda Basin Recreation Zone – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 5-6. Bull Creek – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 5-6. Lake Balboa Boat Ramp – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 7. Lake Balboa Outlet – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 8. L.A. River at Balboa Blvd. – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 9. Switzer Falls – Upper L.A. River Watershed

L.A.’s Freshwater Honor Roll List
Top 10 river recreation sites in Los Angeles County that are low-risk places to swim or boat.

  • 1-8. San Gabriel River East Fork at Graveyard Canyon – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 1-8. L.A. River at Benedict St. (formerly Frogspot) – L.A. River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 1-8. Gould Mesa – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 1-8. Hansen Dam Lake – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 1-8. San Gabriel River Lower North Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 1-8. Sturtevant Falls – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 1-8. San Gabriel River Upper North Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 1-8. Big Tujunga Creek at Vogel Flats – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 8-10. San Gabriel River Upper East Fork – Upper L.A. River Watershed
  • 8-10. San Gabriel River Upper West Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed

Equity and Access
The COVID-19 pandemic, a record-setting wildfire season, and extreme heat during summer 2020 highlighted the dire need for equity in our waters, and exposed major systemic failures; open spaces, including beaches and rivers, are not equally accessible to all people. Low-income communities of color tend to be the most burdened communities, bearing the brunt of environmental pollution and limited access to open space.

“A day at the beach and the river shouldn’t make anyone sick,” said Dr. Shelley Luce, President and CEO of Heal the Bay. “With the closures, stress, and uncertainty of the pandemic, it is no surprise that people sought out our local waters in 2020. While we’re thrilled about the excellent water quality across California, our marine ecosystems are still threatened by climate change and other pollution sources. This is alarming as we expect people to increasingly seek out ocean shorelines and freshwater swimming holes to cool off as temperatures rise. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card and River Report Card give access to the latest water quality information and are a critical part of our science-based advocacy work in support of strong environmental and public health policies that improve the health and resilience of our ocean, our rivers, and our communities.”

Tips to stay safe at ocean and freshwater areas

  • View beachreportcard.org and healthebay.org/riverreportcard for the latest water quality information.
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches and freshwater areas with poor water circulation.
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks, and piers.
  • Stay out of the water for at least 72-hours after a rain event.
  • Follow all local health and safety regulations, including all local pandemic-related regulations.
  • Check in with the lifeguard or ranger on duty for more information about the best places to swim.

About Heal the Bay
Heal the Bay is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1985. We use science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill our mission to protect coastal waters and watersheds in Southern California. Heal the Bay Aquarium, located at the Santa Monica Pier, welcomes 100,000 guests annually and hosts a variety of public programs and events that highlight local environmental issues and solutions. Learn more at healthebay.org and follow @healthebay on social media.

About Beach Report Card
Beach Report Card with NowCast, in partnership with World Surf League, is Heal the Bay’s flagship scientific water quality monitoring program that started in the 1990s. For thirty years, the Beach Report Card has influenced the improvement of water quality by increasing monitoring efforts and helping to enact strong environmental and public health policies. Learn more at beachreportcard.org and download the free app on iPhone and Android devices.

The Beach Report Card is made possible in part through generous support from SIMA Environmental Fund, Swain Barber Foundation, SONY Pictures Entertainment, and World Surf League.

About River Report Card
Currently, there is no statewide water quality monitoring mandate for rivers and streams in California, like we have for the ocean as a result of the Beach Report Card. Heal the Bay started the River Report Card in 2017 to push for new public health protections for freshwater areas in addition to serving the immediate need for increased public awareness about the risks at popular freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County. Learn more at healthebay.org/riverreportcard.

The River Report Card is made possible in part by generous support from Alice C. Tyler Perpetual Trust and Garfield Foundation.

Media inquiries only please: Contact us


The Beach Report Card is made in partnership with World Surf League.



Resumen ejecutivo

Las playas de California tuvieron una excelente calidad de agua durante los meses de verano del 2020. De más de 500 playas en todo el estado, el 93% obtuvieron buenas calificaciones (A y B). Las precipitaciones del año pasado estuvieron drásticamente por debajo del promedio, lo que generalmente conlleva a una mejor calidad del agua debido a las cantidades reducidas de contaminantes que fluyen hacia el océano. Sin embargo, las calificaciones durante la temporada de lluvias fueron peores al promedio en este año, probablemente debido al hecho de que la mayoría de los datos durante la temporada de lluvias se recopilaron cuando se registraron las primeras lluvias (que son las más importantes) las cuales llevan más contaminación.

• La desembocadura del río Tijuana y la playa que se encuentra a menos de una milla al norte se encuentran en nuestra lista de las Peores Playas. Estas playas se ven afectadas por las aguas residuales que fluyen desde el río Tijuana y de la Planta de Tratamiento Punta Bandera. Las aguas residuales tienen su origen en la infraestructura del alcantarillado deteriorado e insuficiente en la ciudad de Tijuana.

• El condado de San Mateo continúa luchando con la calidad del agua, ya que tres playas en el área de Foster City se encuentran en la lista de las Peores Playas: Erckenbrack Park, Gull Park y Marlin Park. Erckenbrack Park apareció en la lista de las peores playas el año pasado junto con otras cinco playas del condado de San Mateo. Cuatro de esas peores playas del 2019 no fueron monitoreados en absoluto en 2020. Esto es alarmante ya que este tramo de costa ha experimentado altos niveles de contaminación fecal y es muy popular entre los bañistas que ahora no tienen información sobre la potencial contaminación.

• Capitola Beach en el Condado de Santa Cruz es la playa número tres en la lista de este año. El arroyo de Soquel Creek desemboca en el océano cerca de esta playa, descargando bacterias contaminantes de toda la cuenca. Esta playa ha sido un fastidio desde que se lanzó el Boletín de Calificaciones de Playas.

• La unica Peor Playa del condado de Los Ángeles es la palaya Mother’s Beach en Marina Del Rey, que no es ajena a la lista de las playas más contaminadas del estado. Esta playa está encerrada y experimenta poca acción de las olas, por lo que la contaminación bacteriana no se elimina facilmente.

• Clam Beach en el condado de Humboldt ha recibido el estatus de la Peor Playa en siete de los últimos 11 años. La calidad del agua en esta playa del norte de California se ve afectada negativamente por la escorrentía agrícola que fluye hacia el océano a través de los arroyos de Patrick Creek y Strawberry Creek.

• El Candlestick Point de San Francisco en Windsurfer Circle regresa a la lista después de una pausa de siete años. Candlestick Point se encuentra en la Bahía de San Francisco, y aunque no es un área encerrada, es probable que no experimente tanta circulación de agua como una playa de mar abierto.

• East Beach en Santa Bárbara está haciendo su primera aparición en la lista de las Peores Playas. La contaminación bacteriana del área de Santa Bárbara fluye en el océano hacia la playa de East Beach a través del arroyo de Mission Creek.

Las playas de Oregon no fueron monitoreadas con la frecuencia suficiente para recibir una calificación este verano, y no se monitorearon sus playas durante los meses de invierno. Solo cuatro condados de Oregon recibieron calificaciones durante la temporada de lluvias, que fueron mediocres y muy por debajo del promedio en temporada lluviosa del estado de 82% que recibieron calificaciones de A y B.

Las calificaciones durante la temporada seca de verano en el estado deWashington fueron excelentes y el 96% de las playas recibieron calificaciones de A y B. Las calificaciones en temporada lluviosa fueron excepcionales y por encima del promedio, con un 91% que recibieron calificaciones de A y B. Las playas del estado de Washington no fueron monitoreadas durante los meses de invierno, por lo que no se pudieron calcular las calificaciones durante la temporada seca de invierno.

El verano 2020 fue el primer año en que las playas de Tijuana, México se incluyeron en el Boletín de Calificaciones de Playas. Las playas de El Faro y El Vigía recibieron una B para las calificaciones durante la temporada seca de verano, mientras que Playas Blanca recibió una D. Las calificaciones durante la temporada seca de invierno mostraron un patrón similar donde El Faro y El Vigía recibieron una D, y Playas Blanca recibió una F. Las tres playas recibieron F para la temporada lluviosa. Este tramo de costa recibe a millones de visitantes cada año y se ve muy afectado por la contaminación de las aguas residuales durante todo el año, incluso durante la temporada seca. La fuente principal de contaminación es la planta de tratamiento Punta Bandera ubicada al sur de Tijuana, que regularmente libera aguas residuales no tratadas o parcialmente tratadas al océano.

El Boletín de Calificaciones de Playas se enfoca en la calidad del agua de las playas océanicas. Sin embargo, monitorear la calidad del agua en los sitios de agua dulce, como ríos, lagos y arroyos, y hacer que esa información esté disponible para el público también es importante para proteger la salud pública en sitios recreacionales. Heal the Bay creó el Boletín de Calificaciones de Ríos (River Report Card) para informar al público de la calidad del agua en nuestros ríos y arroyos. Heal the Bay recolecta muestras y analiza la calidad del agua en seis sitios recreacionales en el condado de Los Angeles, recopila datos de monitoreo de 22 stios adicionales del condado de Los Ángeles; y transforma los datos en grados codificados por colores de fácil comprensión. Antes de dirigirse a una área de recreación de agua dulce en el condado de Los Ángeles, consulte nuestro River Report Card en , que se actualiza regularmente durante los meses de verano.

Heal the Bay también patrocina el Proyecto de Ley 1066 de la Asamblea (Bloom) en California, que es el primer paso para garantizar que los sitios de recreación de agua dulce en el estado sean monitoreados para detectar contaminación fecal y que se informe a la comunidad.



For the seventh straight summer, Heal the Bay is posting daily water quality predictions for California Beaches at the Beach Report Card with NowCast. To make daily predictions, we use computer models to examine correlations between environmental conditions (such as temperature and tide) and historical bacteria concentrations. Our NowCast models then predict with a high accuracy how much bacteria could be present in the water given the current local conditions at the beach. 

A day at the beach should not make anyone sick. That is why health officials across the state monitor water quality at the beach every week during the summer. And when officials detect high levels of bacteria, they issue a public health advisory. By the time traditional water quality samples are processed, a minimum of 18-24 hours have passed and the information is already outdated – and with samples taken only every 7 days, a weekly water quality grade may not provide the most useful or updated information as water quality can fluctuate rapidly. Heal the Bay believes that we need daily water quality information in order to better protect public health – our NowCast program does exactly that, issuing daily water quality information for 25 beaches. 

NowCast predictions appear on the Beach Report Card website and app with the symbols seen below. A Blue “W+” symbol indicates that there is a low risk of illness by coming in contact with the water, and a Red “W-” symbol indicates that there is a high risk of illness by coming in contact with the water. 

Head to beachreportcard.org to find daily predictions for 25 beaches across California. Or download our free app on your iOS or Android device to get daily predictions on-the-go. 

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer 2021, we are excited to announce the 25 beaches in our NowCast program, with five new beaches added to the program in 2021:

  1. Trinidad State Beach, Humboldt County *NEW
  2. Luffenholtz State Beach, Humboldt County
  3. Bolinas Beach at Wharf Road, Marin County
  4. Aquatic Park, San Francisco
  5. Ocean Beach at Balboa Street, San Francisco
  6. Linda Mar Beach at San Pedro Creek, San Mateo County
  7. Half Moon Bay State Beach, San Mateo County *NEW
  8. Rio Del Mar, Santa Cruz County
  9. Lover’s Point, Monterey County *NEW
  10. Morro Bay at Atascadero Road, San Luis Obispo County
  11. Hammonds Beach, Santa Barbara County *NEW
  12. Promenade Park at C Street, Ventura County *NEW
  13. Leo Carrillo, Los Angeles County
  14. Venice Beach at Brooks Avenue, Los Angeles County
  15. Venice Breakwater, Los Angeles County
  16. Dockweiler/Toes Beach, Los Angeles County
  17. El Porto, Los Angeles County
  18. Manhattan Beach at 28th Street, Los Angeles County
  19. Redondo Breakwater, Los Angeles County
  20. Torrance Beach at Avenue I, Los Angeles County
  21. Long Beach at 5th Place, Los Angeles County
  22. Long Beach at 72nd Place, Los Angeles County
  23. Seal Beach Pier, Orange County
  24. Huntington Beach at Brookhurst Street, Orange County
  25. Newport Beach at 38th Street, Orange County

Don’t see your beach on the map? Let us know if you have a beach we should consider for NowCast. We are continually refining and expanding this program and hope to cover more beaches in the future. Predicting water quality is complex and we want to make sure we get it right. This means we need access to a myriad of data sources in order to make accurate predictions, and when data are not readily available, we can’t make the prediction. 

Communities looking to bring daily water quality predictions to their favorite beach spots can advocate for this cause in the following ways:

  • Advocate at town halls and city council meetings for increased funding toward ocean and environmental data observation, collection, standardization, and analysis programs.
  • Support Heal the Bay’s staff scientists efforts to expand monitoring programs and directly fund our work.
  • Stay informed about your local water quality and reach out to your representatives in California demanding improvements be made to protect public health and the environment.

If you can’t find NowCast predictions in your area, you can see the latest water quality grades issued to over 500 beaches on the Beach Report Card. In the meantime, we are working to expand NowCast, so check back soon to see if your favorite beach has water quality predictions.


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For the sixth straight summer, Heal the Bay is posting daily water quality predictions for California Beaches on our Beach Report Card with NowCast.

A day at the beach should not make anyone sick. That’s why health officials across the state sample water at the beach weekly during the summer. And when officials detect high levels of bacteria, they issue a public health advisory.

The good news: by measuring the amount of bacteria in the water and sharing information with the public in real time, we can help you decide when and where it’s safest to go to the beach. Plus, it raises awareness about ocean pollution and brings much-needed attention to solving systemic waste and runoff issues.

The bad news: weekly samples aren’t enough. Water quality can fluctuate drastically from day to day, with real implications for people’s health. Heal the Bay believes that we need daily samples in order to better protect public health. In 2015, we launched our NowCast program within the Beach Report Card. NowCast supplements the weekly grades provided by public health officials by bringing accurate daily predictions to the public.

NowCast is able to predict concentrations of bacteria in the water on a daily basis, filling in the time gap of weekly bacteria sampling. NowCast consists of computer models that examine correlations between environmental conditions (such as temperature and tide) and historical bacteria concentrations. Our models then predict how much bacteria could be present in the water given the current local conditions at the beach.

NowCast predictions appear on the Beach Report Card with the symbols seen below. A Blue “W+” symbol indicates that there is a low risk of illness by coming in contact with the water, and a Red “W-” symbol indicates that there is a high risk of illness by coming in contact with the water.

Good Water Quality

Poor Water Quality

Head to beachreportcard.org to find daily predictions for over 25 beaches across California. Or download the free app on your iOS or Android device to get daily predictions on-the-go.

List of Beaches With Daily NowCast Water Quality Predictions

  • Ocean Beach (Balboa St.), San Francisco
  • Ocean Beach (Lincoln Way), San Francisco
  • Candlestick Point (Windsurfer Circle), San Francisco – NEW
  • Main Beach (Boardwalk), Santa Cruz County
  • Leo Carrillo, Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Will Rogers (Temescal Canyon), Los Angeles County
  • Will Rogers (Santa Monica Canyon), Los Angeles County
  • Santa Monica (Pico Ave.), Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Venice Beach Pier, Los Angeles County
  • Dockweiler/Toes Beach, Los Angeles County
  • El Porto, Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Manhattan Beach (28th St.), Los Angeles County
  • Hermosa Beach Pier, Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Redondo Breakwater, Los Angeles County
  • Redondo Beach Pier, Los Angeles County
  • Torrance Beach (Avenue I), Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Long Beach (72nd Place), Los Angeles County
  • Seal Beach (1st), Orange County – NEW
  • Seal Beach Pier, Orange County
  • Huntington Beach (Brookhurst St.), Orange County
  • Newport Beach (52nd), Orange County – NEW
  • Newport Beach (38th), Orange County
  • Aliso Creek Outlet, Orange County – NEW
  • Monarch Beach (Salt Creek Outlet), Orange County – NEW
  • Doheny State Beach, Orange County
  • San Clemente Pier (Lifeguard Tower), Orange County

Don’t see your beach on the map? We’re working on it! Predicting water quality is complex and we want to make sure we get it right. This means we need access to a myriad of data sources in order to make accurate predictions, and when data are not readily available, we can’t make the prediction.

If you’re looking to help monitor and improve the water quality at your favorite beach spots, here’s a few things you can do:

  • Advocate at town halls and city council meetings for increased funding toward ocean and environmental data observation, collection, standardization, and analysis programs.
  • Support Heal the Bay’s staff scientists efforts to expand monitoring programs and directly fund our work.
  • Stay informed about your local water quality and reach out to your representatives in California demanding improvements be made to protect public health and our natural environment.

If you can’t find daily NowCast predictions in your area, you can still see the latest water quality grades issued to over 500 beaches on the Beach Report Card Website. In the meantime, we are working to improve and expand the NowCast system so check back frequently to see if your favorite beach has water quality predictions.



Our 30th Anniversary of the annual Beach Report Card:

Thirty years ago people were getting sick from going in the ocean, and there was no way for them to know when or where they were at risk. Heal the Bay introduced the Beach Report Card in 1990-1991, a tool to help keep the public safe at the beach. It is also a powerful resource used to advocate for water quality policies and improvement projects.

Thirty years later, Heal the Bay is stoked to release the 30th annual Beach Report Card, because a day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick. This report assigns A-to-F letter grades for more than 500 California beaches, based on levels of bacterial pollution in the ocean.

So, what did our staff scientists find? Here are our major takeaways:

  • California beach water quality improved in 2019-2020, driven in large part by decreased rainfall. Rainfall across coastal counties in California was 12 percentage points lower than the historical average. Less rain means fewer pollutants, including bacteria, were flushed through storm drains and rivers into the ocean. Because of this pollutant flushing, only 65% of CA beaches received good or excellent grades during wet weather.
  • The notorious Beach Bummer list—a ranking of the ten most polluted beaches in the state—includes six bacteria-impaired beaches within San Mateo County. This is an unusually high number of beach bummers for a single county. The remaining four beach bummers are located in Southern California and are frequent pollution offenders. (View the Beach Bummers of 2020.)
  • While scientists remain deeply concerned about water quality issues, there is some good news for beachgoers. 92% of the 500 California beaches monitored by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade for the summer season. During dry weather in the winter season, 91% of beaches received an A or B grade, which was slightly better than average. (Go to pages 5-6 of the report for the full Executive Summary.)
  • Overall, 42 out of more than 500 monitored California beaches made it on Heal the Bay’s coveted Honor Roll this year, which is higher than last year (33) and the year before (37) likely due to lower than average rainfall. To make it on the Honor Roll the beach must be monitored year-round and score perfect A+ water quality grades each week in all seasons and weather conditions. Most beaches on the Honor Roll are in Southern California because many counties in Central California and Northern California do not sample frequently enough during the winter months. (For the full Honor Roll list, see pages 14-15 of the report.)
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life around the world and has devastated households and communities. We must continue to practice physical distancing and other health and safety procedures, and to keep in mind that a large percentage of people can spread the virus without showing symptoms. The closure of beaches in many locations due to COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of beaches in our lives as open spaces for recreation, relaxation, exploration, and places to gather. But, COVID-19 has also exposed major systemic failures; open spaces, including beaches, are not equally accessible to all people and the public health impacts of health crises as well as poor water and air quality are not shared equally across communities. Low-income communities of color tend to be the most burdened and vulnerable communities, bearing the brunt of environmental and economic impacts. As we plan for the future post-COVID-19, we can and must do better to protect everyone. (Learn more on page 49.)
  • Heal the Bay is expanding the Beach Report Card to include three beaches in Tijuana, Mexico: El Faro, El Vigia, and Playa Blanca. These popular beaches in Mexico, along with Imperial Beach in California, US, are impacted by millions of gallons of raw sewage that flow into the ocean through the Tijuana River. As a result, the public is at a greater risk for getting ill and local beaches are often closed for months on end. Heal the Bay is partnering with Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental to help spread awareness about water quality in Tijuana. Margarita Diaz, Director of Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental, says “Showing the integration of what is happening on both the US and Mexican portion of our watershed is a long overdue requirement for understanding environmental health issues—particularly as they relate to water quality in our shared watershed—given that they are intrinsically connected.” (Learn more on page 50.)

Tips for staying safe at the beach:

  • Check beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades (available on iOS & Android)
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches with poor water circulation
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks, and piers
  • Stay out of the water for at least 72-hours after a rain event
  • Wear a mask when not in the water and remain at least 6 -feet away from people not from your household at all times
  • Follow all local health and safety regulations, and check in with the lifeguard on duty for more information about the best places to swim

In analyzing the last thirty years of water quality data, one major finding we uncovered in California was the number of beach and coastal access days the public lost out on due to bacterial-pollution risks.

There have been 66,605 bacterial-pollution exceedance events at California beaches in the last 30 years (Summer Dry, Winter Dry, Wet Weather combined). That’s an average of 2,220 exceedance events per year in California. We estimate the bacterial pollution issue has resulted in 132,130 to 396,390 beach advisory days where the public has not been allowed to access the beach. See pages 22-27 to view an outline of the major policies that the Beach Report Card has influenced over the years as well as whether or not water quality has improved over time.

Download the Report

Download the Executive Summary En Español

Download the Press Release

Donate To Support This Work


About the Beach Report Card with NowCast

The annual Beach Report Card includes an analysis of water quality for three time periods: summer dry season (April through October 2019), winter dry weather (November 2019 through March 2020) and year-round wet weather conditions. The grading methodology is endorsed by the State Water Resources Control Board. All county health departments in California are required to test beach water quality samples for fecal indicator bacteria at least once a week during the summer season. Many counties also monitor heavily used beaches year-round. Heal the Bay compiles the complex shoreline data, analyzes it, and assigns an easy-to-understand letter grade.

In addition to providing weekly water quality grades for 500 beaches statewide, Heal the Bay scientists continue to expand NowCast, a daily water quality predictive service at 20 popular beaches in California. Using sophisticated machine learning, environmental science data, modeling, and past bacteria samples, Heal the Bay accurately predicts when beaches should post warning signs because of potential bacterial pollution. This new approach enhances public health protections by providing more advanced water quality information to public health officials and beachgoers.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is made possible through the generous support from SIMA Environmental Fund, Swain Barber Foundation, and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beach types are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and detailed report methodology, please refer to our complete report. A PDF version of the 2019-20 annual Beach Report Card is available to download at  https://healthebay.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Report-2020_web.pdf


VIEW A RECORDING OF OUR LIVE CONFERENCE

Heal the Bay hosted a live conference on June 30 at Noon to reveal this year’s annual Beach Report Card findings. Speakers included: Dr. Shelley Luce, President and CEO at Heal the Bay, Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, Frankie Orrala, Angler Outreach Program Manager at Heal the Bay, and Laurie Silvan, Director of the Board for Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental (PFEA). View recording: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/2147380701854201099



Every year, Heal the Bay staff scientists assign A-to-F letter grades to beaches all along the California coast. These grades are based on bacteria pollution and help inform public health. This year, 92% of 500 California beaches received an A or B grade for the busy summer season. However, several beaches are on our list of no-goes.

We’re announcing our 2019-2020 Beach Bummers List, a ranking of the ten most polluted beaches in the state based on levels of harmful bacteria. This year, six of the ten Beach Bummers are from San Mateo County and the remaining four are in Southern California.

The Beach Bummers of 2020

  1. No. 1 – Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at San Vicente Creek Outlet (San Mateo County) Fitzgerald Marine Reserve has never appeared on the Beach Bummer list before. The beach generally has good summer water quality, but is impacted by dry weather runoff from San Vicente Creek. This beach is one of six San Mateo County Beach Bummers this year, which is unprecedented for one county.
  2. No. 2 – Poche Beach at Creek Outlet (Orange County) Poche Beach is no stranger to the Beach Bummer list, appearing on the list in 2018, 2013, 2012, and 2011. The beach is impacted by the Prima Deshecha Cañada storm drain (referred to as Poche Creek), which carries pollution into the ocean even during dry weather from the Dana Point area.
  3. No. 3 – Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue (San Mateo County) Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue is one of three Pillar Point Harbor Beach Bummers this year. There are several storm drains that carry pollutants into the harbor in dry weather, and the seawalls around the harbor prevent pollutants from getting flushed away.
  4. No. 4 – Foster City, Erckenbrack Park (San Mateo County) Erckenbrack Park is a first time Beach Bummer; however, this area of the San Francisco Bay has had a known record of poor water quality. This beach lies within an engineered patchwork of enclosed channels that are impacted by dry weather runoff from the surrounding residential and commercial developments.
  5. No. 5 – Topanga Beach at Creek Outlet (Los Angeles County) A 2014 study found Topanga Lagoon as the likely source of bacteria pollution at Topanga Beach. The lagoon sees high amounts of bird and dog fecal matter. When breached, the fecal matter flows into the ocean resulting in high bacteria concentrations. Planning for a lagoon restoration is underway and could mitigate poor water quality.
  6. No. 6 – Pillar Point Harbor Beach (San Mateo County) Pillar Point Harbor Beach is the second of three Beach Bummers contained within the Pillar Point Harbor. Unfortunately, it appears that the entire harbor was more polluted than normal this past year.
  7. No. 7 – Linda Mar Beach at San Pedro Creek (San Mateo County) Linda Mar Beach is making its third consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list this year, and is one of six San Mateo County Bummers. This beach is impacted by runoff during dry weather, which flows untreated into the ocean through San Pedro Creek.
  8. No. 8 – Mission Bay, Vacation Isle North Cove (San Diego County) Vacation Isle North Cove is an enclosed beach in Mission Bay that is impacted by dry weather runoff from the surrounding commercial and residential developments. Pollutants are not easily flushed away from this enclosed beach, which is located within a deep cove.
  9. No. 9 – San Clemente Pier (Orange County) San Clemente Pier is making its second consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list and is one of two Orange County Beach Bummers this year. This beach is impacted by untreated dry weather runoff that flows into the ocean through a storm drain.
  10. No. 10 – Pillar Point Harbor at Westpoint Avenue (San Mateo County) Rounding out the Beach Bummer list is Pillar Point Harbor at Westpoint Avenue, which is the third Pillar Point Harbor Beach Bummer and one of six San Mateo County Beach Bummers this year. Untreated dry weather runoff appears to be causing significant water quality problems in this enclosed harbor.

For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beaches are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and more information about the Beach Bummers (pages 16-18), refer to our complete annual Beach Report Card 2019-20

Polluted ocean waters are a significant health risk to beachgoers. We encourage all beachgoers to check the Beach Report Card when planning a trip to the ocean! Because a day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick.

Coming into contact with beach water that has a grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes. 

See more highlights from this year’s report.



Every year, Heal the Bay staff scientists assign A-to-F letter grades to beaches all along the California coast. These grades are based on bacteria pollution and help inform public health. This year, 94% of 500 California beaches received an A or B grade for the busy summer season. However, several beaches are on our list of no-goes.

We’re announcing our 2018-2019 Beach Bummers List, a ranking of the 10 most polluted beaches in the state based on levels of harmful bacteria. This year, 5 of the 10 Beach Bummers are from Southern California, including Cabrillo Beach (harborside) and Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach in L.A. County.

Polluted ocean waters are a significant health risk to beach-goers. We encourage all beach-goers to use this list (and our Beach Report Card) when planning a trip to the ocean! Because a day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick.

Read the Beach Report Card highlights

Aerial View of San Clemente Coast and Pier Path-1 Linda Mar Beach_city of pacifica Drone view on Long Beach, USA Cowell Flow Suzanne Healy Monarch MDR Mother's Beach cabrillo-beach-harborside_LA Parks and Rec Keller Beach Document-1
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5. Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz County (Photo Credit: Suzanne Healy)

How to stay safe at the beach

  • Check beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades (available on iOS & Android)
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches with poor water circulation
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks, and piers
  • Stay out of the water for at least 72-hours after a rain event

Coming into contact with beach water that has a grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes. For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beaches are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and more information, refer to our complete report.

Read the full Beach Report Card

Read the summary en Español



Heal the Bay is stoked to release the 29th annual Beach Report Card, because a day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick. This report assigns A-to-F letter grades for 500 California beaches, based on weekly levels of bacterial pollution in the ocean.

So, what did our staff scientists find? Here are our major takeaways:

  • California beach water quality sagged in 2018-19, driven in large part by increased rainfall. California often swings from extended dry periods to shorter periods of intense, wet weather. When rains do increase, as we saw in the 2018-2019 winter season, the State of California needs to do a better job of capturing, treating, and reusing runoff so it can be a resource, not a nuisance.
  • More rain means more bacteria-ridden runoff carried to the sea via the stormdrain system. Accordingly, bacterial pollution at our local beaches dipped dramatically in 2018-2019. Only 54% of the beaches received an A or B grade during wet weather, which is an eight percentage point decrease from the state’s five-year average.
  • In a positive sign, Some 94% of the beaches monitored in Southern California earned A grades during the busy summer season.
  • Overall, 33 California beaches made it on Heal the Bay’s coveted Honor Roll this year, which is lower than last year (37) likely due to higher than average rainfall. To make it on the Honor Roll the beach must be monitored year-round and score perfect A+ grades each week in all seasons and weather conditions. You can see the full list on page 12 of the report.
  • San Clemente Pier in Orange County has the dubious honor of holding the top spot on our Beach Bummer List this year. For the full list, please see page 16 of the report.
  • Northern California beaches had excellent summer water quality on par with its five-year average of 94% A’s and B’s. Clam Beach in Humboldt County is the only NorCal beach on the Beach Bummer List. No NorCal beaches made the Honor Roll.
  • Central California beaches (which includes San Francisco County) had great water quality during summer months with 92% of its beaches earning an A or B grade. Linda Mar Beach and Aquatic Park in San Mateo County are on the Beach Bummer List along with Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz County. Keller Beach South Beach is new to the Beach Bummer List. Five Central Coast beaches made the Honor Roll.
  • Southern California beaches had excellent yet slightly below average grades with 95% of the beaches receiving A’s or B’s for their summer dry grades. Five of the Beach Bummers are from SoCal, including the troubled Cabrillo Beach (harborside) and Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach in L.A. County. 28 out of the 33 beaches on the Honor Roll are located in SoCal.
  • We investigated the impact of the Woolsey Fire on Malibu beaches and found that water quality grades decreased dramatically after the fire. Wildfires increase runoff due to vegetation loss and infrastructure damage. As the effects of climate change are realized, we can expect more wildfires and more rainfall across coastal areas of California, which can have a negative impact on water quality and public health if no preventative actions are taken to protect our communities and natural habitats.

How to avoid risky water quality at California beaches:

  • Check beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades (available on iOS & Android)
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches with poor water circulation
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks, and piers
  • Stay out of the water for at least 72-hours after a rain event

You can get a county-by-county, beach-by-beach breakdown in the full report.

Download our press release.

Download the Report

Download the Executive Summary En Español

View the Top 10 Beach Bummers

Donate To Support This Work


About the Beach Report Card with NowCast

The annual Beach Report Card includes an analysis of water quality for three time periods: summer dry season (April through October 2018), winter dry weather (November 2018 through March 2019) and year-round wet weather conditions. The grading methodology is endorsed by the State Water Resources Control Board.

All county health departments in California are required to test beach water quality samples for fecal indicator bacteria at least once a week during the summer season. Many counties also monitor heavily used beaches year-round. Heal the Bay compiles the complex shoreline data, analyzes it, and assigns an easy-to-understand letter grade.

This summer, Heal the Bay scientists will expand NowCast – a daily water quality monitoring service at 20 popular beaches in California – in addition to providing weekly water quality grades for 500 beaches statewide. Using sophisticated machine learning, environmental science data, and past bacteria samples, Heal the Bay accurately predicts each morning when beaches should be posted with warning or open signs because of potential bacterial pollution. These new models will protect public health by providing more advanced water quality information to public health officials and beachgoers.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is made possible through the generous support of SIMA Environmental Fund, Swain Barber Foundation, and Water Foundation.

For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beach types are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and detailed report methodology, please refer to our complete report. A PDF version of the 2018-19 annual Beach Report Card is available to download at https://healthebay.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/BRC_2019_FINAL2.pdf