photo credit: Alan Cleaver 2000
According to the National Resource Defense Council’s annual water quality report for the nation’s beaches, this year had the sixth highest levels of contamination in the 20 year history of the study. The NRDC reports that a range of causes are contributing to dirtier coastlines, including stormwater runoff and aging sanitation and combined sewer systems that may overflow into coastal waters during storm events.
Although contaminated waters can pass pathogens along to swimmers, the water tests currently employed take up to 24 hours to reveal problems, and so warranted beach closures are often delayed.
How does California fare in all of this? Of the 30 states with coastal waters, the cleanliness of California beaches rank at a sad #20. The top 3 polluted beaches include North Avalon beach in Los Angeles County where 82% of sampled water exceeded national pollution standards; Mendocino County’s Pudding Creek beach where 65% of samples exceeded national standards; and Poche County beach in Orange County that had an excessive pollution rate of 62%. The county that received the dubious honor of having the highest percentage of beach water samples that exceeded national pollution standards was San Francisco County at 17%. However, on a more positive note, the level of pollution in California beach water has trended downward in the last five years.