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Santa Monica Pier, Surfrider, Doheny earn 'Beach Bummer' status from Heal the Bay

May 20, 2009 | 10:30 am

Santa Monica Pier and Surfrider Beach in Malibu earned spots on Heal the Bay's dreaded "Beach Bummer" list as the nonprofit group today issued its annual report card on water quality. They were among the 10 worst of 23 state beaches that received an "F" grade for pollution.

Los Angeles County had the worst overall beach water quality in California last year, according to Heal the Bay's 19th annual beach report card.

Overall dry-weather water quality in L.A. County for 2008-09 fell slightly below the county's five-year average, the group said, with a handful of chronically polluted beaches in Malibu, Santa Monica, Avalon and Long Beach dragging down overall results.

Besides Santa Monica Pier and Surfrider, other beaches in the county that made the bummer list were Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island, Cabrillo Beach (harborside), Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach and the city of Long Beach at the Los Angeles River outlet.

Rounding out the 10-worst list were Pismo Beach Pier in San Luis Obispo County, Campbell Cove State Park Beach in Sonoma County and Poche Beach and Doheny Beach at San Juan Creek in Orange County.

For the first time, Heal the Bay also handed out perfect "A+" grades, with 79 beaches  never exceeding bacterial standards. In Los Angeles County, A+ sites included Will Rogers State Beach on Pacific Coast Highway, Dockweiler State Beach at the Imperial Highway drain, Manhattan State Beach at 40th Street and Portuguese Bend Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Heal the Bay analysts assigned A to F grades to 94 beaches in Los Angeles County for the dry-weather period from March 2008 through April 2009, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution. Seventy percent of sites in the county earned A or B grades during dry weather, whereas 85% of locations statewide received those grades.

Although Long Beach's overall water quality is poor because it sits at the terminus of the L.A. River, this year saw the city's best water quality in three years. The city invested more than $300,000 last year to determine sources of bacterial contamination and fix broken sewage pump lines.

Wet-weather water quality in L.A. County for the year was the worst since 2004-05, with 81% of 94 monitored beaches receiving D or F grades after rain.

On a troubling note, the group said Ventura County had ceased ocean testing at all its beaches because the state budget woes eliminated funds to support counties' regular ocean testing. Orange County officials also might decrease sampling if state funding isn't made available by July, the group said.

"With the summer coming, the state has made assurances that it will start restoring funding to beach monitoring programs, but there is no firm date," said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. "Until then, swimmers in many locations in greater Southern California are truly swimming at their own risk."

Marin, Mendocino and Humboldt counties went to the head of the class, with their beaches scoring perfect 100% summer grades.

To see the complete report, visit Heal the Bay's website.

--Martha Groves