Bummer: Report card says some Southern California beaches might make you sick

Heavy rains last winter poured billions of gallons of polluted runoff into the ocean, significantly increasing health risks at many Southern California beaches, according to Heal the Bay’s annual beach report card.

“The reassuring news,” said Sarah Sikich, the environmental group’s vice president, “is that if you swim at an open-ocean beach in the summer away from storm drains and creek mouths, you statistically have very little risk of getting ill.”

No local beaches received failing marks from April to October 2016, the summer reporting period.

Released Thursday, the annual survey of beaches statewide showed that almost half the 85 beaches that Los Angeles County monitored last year earned F grades during the wet winter.

High bacteria counts presented a significant health threat to thousands of regular ocean users, who were at risk of contracting such ailments as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes from a morning swim or surf session, the report said.

Heal the Bay, based in Santa Monica, also found that bacterial levels spiked at some of California’s most popular beaches as polluted runoff poured through storm drains and into the sea.

“We want people catching waves, not bugs, when they head to the beach,” Sikich said.

Southern California accounted for five sites that made Heal the Bay’s infamous Beach Bummer List, which ranks the 10 most polluted beaches in the state.

San Clemente Pier, a newcomer to the list, was in the No. 2 spot. Though shark sightings have closed stretches of this beach recently, swimmers might be more worried about bacteria levels.

La Jolla Cove in San Diego, another new addition to the top 10, was in fifth place. This beach sits in an enclosed area with limited water circulation.

The No. 6 slot belongs to Santa Monica Pier, where moist conditions, flocks of birds and storm drain runoff are likely culprits.

Efforts are underway to improve water quality, including the construction of a $1.6-million cistern system to catch runoff during the rainy season.

Mother’s Beach in Marina Del Rey is No. 9. Unsafe levels of bacteria have resulted from a lack of water circulation.

Monarch State Beach in Orange County was in 10th place. This bird-heavy stretch of sand north of Salt Creek is adjacent to the five-star Ritz Carlton resort in Dana Point.

Table Rock in Laguna Beach made the 2017-2017 Heal the Bay Honor Roll earning an A+ grade during all seasons.

Read the entire article at LATimes.com