California's wet winter — hailed for busting the state's drought — had a debilitating effect on Los Angeles County beaches by driving up ocean bacteria levels during the rainy period, ruining what had been improving water quality during the dry summer, according to a report released this week by an environmental group.
According to Heal the Bay's annual Beach Report Card, about 93 percent of Los Angeles County beaches received "A" grades during the high-traffic summer season from April to October of 2016, up 4 percent from the previous year. But with winter rains sending billions of gallons of polluted runoff into the ocean during the winter months of November 2016 to March 2017, nearly half of the county's 85 beaches earned an "F."
"We want people catching waves, not bugs, when they head to the beach," said Sarah Sikich, vice president of Heal the Bay. "The reassuring news 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."
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Two Los Angeles County beaches landed on Heal the Bay's "Beach Bummers" list of heavily polluted ocean water — the Santa Monica Pier placing sixth and Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey ranked ninth. Orange County also had two beaches on the "bummer" list, with the San Clemente Pier placing second and Monarch Beach in Dana Point ranked 10th.
The most polluted beach in the state, according to the Beach Bummers list, was Clam Beach County Park in Humboldt County.
In contrast, 14 beaches in Orange County earned spots on Heal the Bay's "Honor Roll" for clean water. Seven locations in Laguna Beach landed on the Honor Roll, along with four in Newport Beach, two in Dana Point and one in San Clemente. In Los Angeles County, two beaches in Malibu were listed on the Honor Roll, along with Bluff Cove in Palos Verdes Estates and Portuguese Bend Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Statewide, 96 percent of the 416 monitored beaches earned overall grades of A or B, a slight improvement over last year, according to Heal the Bay.