From the Los Angeles Times
L.A. County beaches rank high in contamination
Testing by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows
Avalon on Santa Catalina Island and Santa Monica Pier area had high levels of
By Susannah Rosenblatt
Los Angeles Times Staff
July 29, 2008
For the fifth year in a row, Los Angeles
County is home to the dirtiest beaches in the state, with repeat offenders
Avalon on Santa Catalina Island and Santa Monica among those with the highest
levels of fecal bacteria in ocean water, according to a Natural Resources
Defense Council report to be released today.
"The problem's not going
away," said Michelle Mehta, an attorney with the nonprofit organization's water
Also among the top 10 foulest shores were Doheny State Beach
south of Dana Point Harbor, Ocean Beach at Vicente Street in San Francisco,
Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro and Rincon Beach Creek mouth in Ventura
Coastlines in Laguna Beach, at Bolsa Chica State Beach and
Huntington City Beach were singled out as particularly clean.
were taken from nearly three-quarters of California's public beaches from April
through October 2007. Monitors collected most samples from ankle-deep water at
least once a week at sites near storm drains or other contamination sources.
Across California, these contained unhealthful levels of enterococcus, total
coliform and fecal coliform bacteria -- found in human and animal waste -- 7% of
the time, down from 12% the previous year.
Bathers in tainted water can
contract gastroenteritis, ear infections, skin rashes or other symptoms, Mehta
said. Dirty water can flow into the sea from storm drains and sewage systems,
especially in rainstorms.
In Los Angeles County last year, the number of
days in which beaches were closed or had safety advisories posted was down 18%
from the previous year.
While the declines sound encouraging, Mehta
cautioned that conditions might actually be getting worse. Because the amount of
rainfall last season was much less than the previous year, experts had expected
beach conditions to improve more dramatically.
State water board
officials, however, pointed to water quality improvements, particularly in dry
weather when the beaches and surf are the most crowded. For instance, the state
has spent more than $74 million on beach cleanup efforts, such as diverting
urban runoff into treatment plants.
The biggest challenge is fighting
diffuse pollution sources, such as people dumping contaminants down storm
drains, said Leslie Laudon, a State Water Resources Control Board manager.
Individuals can take steps to protect beach water by turning off sprinklers and
picking up dog droppings.
Beach warning and closure days in Orange County
increased 5% since 2006; closures and warnings dropped significantly in Santa
Barbara, San Diego and Ventura counties.
"There's been a huge effort by .
. . the county and cities to try and divert or treat urban runoff," said Larry
Honeybourne, an environmental health program manager with the Orange County
Health Care Agency. "Things are slowly getting better -- we still have
challenges out there."
Honeybourne cited a wastewater treatment plant at
Salt Creek in Dana Point, with another treatment project underway at Poche Beach
near San Clemente. The report also highlighted a federal settlement approved
this year to reduce toxic runoff from 1,000 miles of Los Angeles and Ventura
county highways with sand traps, catch basins and absorbent
Authors of the report called for quicker water test results. It
can take as long as 48 hours after collecting water samples before swimmers and
surfers are notified that beaches could be unsafe. The state water board has
spent about $3 million to study methods to more quickly test fouled water in
Avalon and at Doheny State Beach.