Now, the Bad News for Orange County in Annual Beach Report Card From Heal the Bay
flickr user AndrewEick

Now, the Bad News for Orange County in Annual Beach Report Card From Heal the Bay

As mentioned in the accompanying post on "good news" for Orange County in Heal the Bay's annual Beach Report Card, many OC beaches scored perfect A+ grades and, overall, our shoreline experienced its cleanest dry weather season in six years.

But not everything smells like a rose for county beaches in the report.

Indeed, some smells are smells you don't ever want to smell.

For instance, the annual list of "Beach Bummers," the top 10 monitoring locations with the poorest summertime dry weather water quality, includes five from Los Angeles County.

An Orange County beach sneaks onto the list, however, as you'll see on the the list that follows after the jump . . .

Top 10 Beach Bummers

1.  Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island (Los Angeles County)
2.  Cowell Beach at the wharf (Santa Cruz County)
3.  Cabrillo Beach harborside (Los Angeles County)
4.   Poche Beach (Orange County, San Clemente to be precise)
5.   Santa Monica Municipal Pier (Los Angeles County)
6.   Colorado Lagoon (Los Angeles County)
7.   Baker Beach at Lobos Creek (San Francisco County)
8.   Capitola Beach west of the jetty (Santa Cruz County)
9.   Vacation Isle North Cove Beach in Mission Bay (San Diego County)
10.  Sunset Blvd. and PCH at Santa Ynez drain (Los Angeles County)

That's right, sports fans, San Clemente's northernmost beach Poche Beach makes the Beach Bummer list for the third year in a row. This despite efforts to stop Poche's continued struggle with poor water quality.

"A dry weather filtration/UV disinfection plant at the Poche Creek outlet was completed over a year ago but has yet to meet its design performance specifications," the Heal the Bay report notes. "Frequent rains this winter have impeded the construction contractor's ability to troubleshoot, modify, and refine the system's performance. The system was actively running after the April rains and performance trials began again in early May."

The report identifies the three OC agencies that provide Heal the Bay with monitoring information: the South Orange County Wastewater Authority, the County of Orange Environmental Health Division, and the Orange County Sanitation District.

Orange County has been integrating water quality testing done inland and on the coast by various agencies and eliminated any overlaps. Also, with continued state funding for monitoring in jeopardy, decisions have been made on the county level to drop testing at historically clean beaches so more monitoring can be done at chronic problem spots.

"Heal the Bay has provided feedback on the proposed plan," states the Santa Monica-based group's report, "and we will monitor its progress as Orange County moves forward on maximizing available county resources for health protection of the beachgoing public."

But one fallout from the cost-cutting and consolidation includes no longer testing at all locations throughout the rainy season. 

"Twenty six historically year-round monitored beaches were dropped this past winter," Heal the Bay notes. "Most of the locations that didn't make the cut were in either Huntington or Dana Point Harbors, including the chronically polluted Baby Beach."

The 25-year-old environmental group "was disheartened to see that Dana Point Harbor's Baby Beach was among the monitoring locations that were not monitored year round in Orange County this year. In past years, Baby Beach had been a notorious F grade beach, with poor grades stemming from a lack of circulation as well as runoff from multiple sources."

If you don't test, you can't get a bad grade. Baby Beach has company in this regard, as most beaches between Corona Del Mar and Laguna Main Beach also weren't monitored this past winter. If it has suddenly hit you that the stretch includes some of Orange County's priciest real estate--including Newport Coast spots that chronically tested poorly, much to the chagrin of the Irvine Co. and the upper-crust real estate community--that makes two of us.

For those OC beaches that did test during the wet weather seasons, the overall results were poor, with 42 percent of monitoring locations receiving A or B grades in 2009-2010 compared to 48 percent in '08-'09.

"In fact, Orange County experienced its worst wet weather water quality since 2004-2005," states Heal the Bay. "Not surprising after near normal rainfall finally returned to Southern California this past winter."

But Orange County's wet weather grades were also worse than the state average and worse
than Los Angeles County's for the first time since 2004-2005. 

Not helping matters was our fair county beaches having to sop up six sewage spills--with known volumes totaling approximately 360,000 gallons of muck. These, of course, caused te closure of many beaches.

Two of these spills accounted for nearly all of that known spill volume at county beaches.

A broken sewer lateral on private property in Huntington Beach released nearly 10,000 gallons on Jan. 11, causing the two-day closure of beaches at Sunset Aquatic Park and Portofino Cove.

Then came the granddaddy of 'em all: an approximately 350,000-gallon sewage spill  prompted by a broken pipe in Dana Point, resulting in North Beach and portions of north
Doheny Beach closing for six days in late March.

That's a lotta guacamole!


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