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Report: L.A. County beach water is cleaner; Catalina remains dirtiest

May 24, 2012 | 11:44 am

Surfrider

Good news for sand and surf-loving Angelenos: The beach water is getting cleaner.

The water at 82% of L.A. County beaches earned A or B grades from April to October last year, up from 75% the previous year, according to Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report Card, released Thursday.

Last year, the Santa Monica-based environmental group reported a dip in water quality that bucked years of steady improvement. That was attributed in part to heavy rainfall.  Heal the Bay credited the gains to a drier winter and the construction of more facilities to capture, treat and divert tainted storm water before it reaches the ocean.

The city of Los Angeles has completed eight such projects from Pacific Palisades to Playa del Rey, the group said. In most cases, nearby beaches saw improved water quality.

“They received really stellar grades,” said Amanda Griesbach, a Heal the Bay water quality scientist.

Still, L.A. County remains far below the state average: 92% of California's beaches earned A or B grades, up 2% from the prior year.

The report evaluated hundreds of beaches in California, Oregon and Washington from April 2011 to March 2012, giving them grades of A to F based on tests for bacterial pollution levels, which indicate how likely the water is to harbor pathogens that can make swimmers sick.

Long Beach continued its dramatic turnaround, the report shows.

The city’s beaches, long polluted by the runoff that washes down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers, earned 93% A and B grades during the summer of 2011, up from 27% the previous year.

The improvements could be traced to a series of projects the city has taken to repair its sewer system and divert and disinfect storm runoff. Officials began noting drastically better test results last year.

Many of the region’s chronically polluted beaches stayed that way. Seven of the state’s top 10 most polluted beaches are in L.A. County.

Topping the list is Catalina Island's Avalon Harbor Beach, where a leaking sewer system has made it one of the dirtiest in California for nearly a decade.

Other “beach bummers” included four in Malibu -- Puerco Beach, Surfrider Beach, Solstice Canyon Beach and Escondido Beach -- and two in Orange County: Doheny State Beach in Dana Point and San Clemente’s Poche Beach.

For some of the cleanest beaches in the state, head to spots such as Los Angeles’ Dockweiler Beach, Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes or St. Malo Beach in Oceanside. Their A+ grades earned them a spot on Heal the Bay's "honor roll.”

Top 10 California "Beach Bummers":

1. Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island (Los Angeles County)

2. Cowell Beach (Santa Cruz County)

3. Puerco Beach at the Marie Canyon storm drain (Los Angeles County)

4. Surfrider Beach (Los Angeles County)

5. Solstice Canyon Beach (Los Angeles County)

6. Cabrillo Beach harborside (Los Angeles County)

7. Doheny State Beach at San Juan Creek outlet (Orange County)

8. Poche Beach (Orange County)

9. Escondido State Beach (Los Angeles County)

10. Topanga Beach (Los Angeles County)

Source: Heal the Bay

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-- Tony Barboza

Photo: A surfer emerges from the water after riding the waves at Surfrider Beach in Malibu, which remains one of the state's dirtiest, according to Heal the Bay. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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