Heal the Bay’s annual “report card” was released Wednesday, providing a ranking of the cleanest and dirtiest beaches along California’s coast.
The organization graded 700 beaches along the West Coast, based on bacterial pollution. It gave 94% of California beaches grades of A or B for water quality during the dry summer period between April and October 2021. Meanwhile, the dry winter period from November 2021 through March 2022 saw a slightly below average of 88% of beaches receiving A and B grades.
This year, 51 out of over 500 monitored beaches made it on the “Honor Roll” list compared to 35 last year. Those beaches received an A+ for all seasons and weather conditions.
Below average rainfall amid the drought may have resulted in a small improvement in beach water quality during wet weather periods, since less rainfall means reduced amounts of pollutants being flushed into the ocean, Heal the Bay says in its report.
Still, West Coast waters have been impacted by several major spills over the past year, including a ruptured sewer main that sent 7 million gallons of sewage into the Dominguez Channel, a massive sewage spill from Los Angeles’ Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant and a 25,000-gallon oil leak from a pipeline off the coast of Huntington Beach.
“Unfortunately, this past year saw an unprecedented 30 million gallons of sewage enter waterways in coastal areas of California, and this figure does not include the millions of gallons of sewage that regularly enter the ocean through the Tijuana River,” the report states.
The following beaches received the poorest grades and were dubbed “beach bummers” by Heal the Bay:
Playa Blanca in Tijuana, Mexico also made the list because it is impacted by sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana area.
Santa Monica Pier returned to the “Beach Bummer” list for the first time since 2018.
Water samples were checked for three fecal indicator bacteria: total coliform, fecal coliform (E. coli), and Enterococcus species.
Since most pollutants enter the ocean through storm drains, rivers, and streams, residents were advised to avoid contact with ocean water around storm drains and river outlets.
To earn a spot on the “Honor Roll,” a beach must be monitored all year and receive an “A+” grade for water quality during all seasons and weather conditions.
That’s partly why the list is typically dominated by Southern California beaches, according to Heal the Bay. The organization said many Northern and Central California don’t monitor beach water quality year-round.
For a second straight year, Orange County had the most beaches on the “Honor Roll.” Dana Point and Doheny State Beach each have multiple locations on the list.
Treasure Island Beach made the “Honor Roll” for a third consecutive year, and Crystal Cove made its second consecutive appearance.
Most of Los Angeles County’s top-rated beaches this year are on the Palos Verdes Peninsula or the Malibu area.
Here are the beaches that scored the highest, according to Heal the Bay:
In L.A. County:
In Orange County:
In San Diego County:
In Santa Barbara County
In San Luis Obispo County
Ventura County typically makes the list but Heal the Bay said no beaches in the county made the list this year because they weren’t monitored sufficiently to receive grades for the winter season.