San Clemente Pier, Long Beach City Beach Among Most Polluted in CA, Report Finds

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California is officially drought-free thanks to a wet winter, but all that rain meant more bacteria in beaches.

Overall water quality in the state worsened slightly the past year largely because of more rainfall, according to the 29th annual Beach Report Card released Wednesday by the environmental group Heal the Bay.

An undated photo shows a view from the San Clemente Pier. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
An undated photo shows a view from the San Clemente Pier. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The 2018-2019 report is based on weekly bacterial pollution as tested by county health agencies.

It ranked Orange County’s San Clemente Pier as the dirtiest beach in California.

Untreated runoff from a storm drain earned it the No. 1 spot in the group’s “Beach Bummer List.” The pier last made the ranking in 2016.

Coming in at No. 6 is Monarch Beach at Sal Creek, the second O.C. beach in the group’s most polluted list. That’s also due to untreated runoff from a storm drain, according to Heal the Bay.

Up the coast, three L.A. County beaches were ranked the dirtiest: the Long Beach City Beach at Coronado Avenue, Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey and the harbor side of Cabrillo Beach.

Water flow from the L.A. River landed Long Beach City Beach on the bummer list for the first time, Heal the Bay said.

Meanwhile, it’s the fifth time Mother’s Beach was ranked among the most polluted in California.

“The lack of waves makes it a popular spot for families with young children,” the beach report said. “But, the minimal water circulation causes bacteria and pollution to build up.”

Cabrillo Harbor Beach, another popular family spot, also don’t get a lot of waves because of a seawall, Heal the Bay said. It has made the list eight times in the past decade.

In addition to precipitation, the Woolsey Fire in Malibu “dramatically” decreased beach water quality due to runoff caused by vegetation loss and infrastructure damage, Heal the Bay said.

Here’s the full Beach Bummer ranking:

  1. San Clemente Pier, O.C.
  2. Clam Beach County Park, Humboldt County
  3. Linda Mar Beach, San Mateo County
  4. Long Beach City Beach at Coronado Avenue, L.A. County
  5. Cowell Beach, west of the Wharf, Santa Cruz County
  6. Monarch Beach at Salt Creek, O.C.
  7. Marina Del Rey Mother’s Beach, L.A. County
  8. Cabrillo Beach, harbor side, L.A. County
  9. Keller Beach, South Beach, Contra Costa County
  10. Aquatic Park, San Mateo County

The group also named its Honor Roll, which includes 33 beaches that scored perfectly in weekly tests all year. That’s lower than the 37 beaches that made the list last year, also due to the higher amount of rainfall, the group said.

The following beaches were ranked among the cleanest in California:

  • Malibu, Las Tunas County Beach
  • Cabrillo Beach, ocean side
  • Huntington Harbor, Trinidad Lane Beach
  • Corona del Mar, El Moro Beach
  • Laguna Beach, Victoria Beach
  • Dana Strands Beach
  • South Capistrano Community Beach
  • San Clemente, North Beach at Avenida Pico
  • San Clemente Avenida, Calafia
  • Dana Point Harbor, youth dock

“California often swings from extended dry periods to shorter periods of intense, wet weather,” Heal the Bay’s report said. “When rains do increase, as we saw in the 2018-2019 winter season, the State of California needs to do a better job of capturing, treating, and reusing runoff so it can be a resource, not a nuisance.”

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