The Natural Resources Defense Council's annual survey of water quality and public notification at U.S. beaches contains plenty of bad news for anyone into wading into surf around the country without getting sick. Beach closings and advisories hit their fourth-highest level in the 19-year history of the report, closure/advisory days at the Great Lakes topped 20,000 for the fourth consecutive year and even in the relatively dry 2008 beach season found contamination from stormwater runoff contributing to two-thirds of the closing/advisory days nationally.
The hits kept coming in California as well, with 10 percent of water samples from Golden State beaches containing more human fecal bacteria than the state allows, and violations of daily maximum bacterial standards at 227 California beaches increasing 4 percent from 2007 to 2008, and Cali ranked among the worst in beach water quality nationwide, coming in 22nd out of 30 coastal states, according to the study.
"Many Californians were sickened or became ill after going to polluted beaches last year," says Michelle Mehta, an attorney with the NRDC's water program, in a press statement. "The problem of beach water pollution has not improved and millions of people visiting California's world-renowned beaches continue to be at risk."
Los Angeles County--maintaining a dirty trend exposed in May by Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay--was home to the most polluted beach water, with 20 percent of samples exceeding state standards. And as the Los Angeles Times so astutely pointed out, the latest shitty report came just days after yet another sewage accident spilled crap into the waters of Long Beach, forcing more closures.
But amid all this gloomy NRDC news is a silver lining for Orange County, where beaches are among the cleanest in California, if not the country, according to "Testing the Waters 2009."
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Beaches are rated on a five-star basis, with individual stars representing water quality in 2008, water quality over the past three years, the frequency in water-quality testing, the promptness in issuing advisories/closure warnings to swimmers and whether those warnings are also posted online.
All beaches in Newport Beach received five stars. Laguna Beach would have matched its neighbor to the north had the beach near Hotel Laguna not received four stars and Bluebird Canyon and Emerald Bay not checked in with three stars apiece.
Huntington Beach city and state beaches received three stars, as did two testing points at San Onofre State Beach and one in San Clemente (Avenida Calafia). The other one in San Clemente, Las Palmeras, received four stars.
By comparison, Long Beach just to the north of the Orange County line received two stars all along its coast. That was pretty much the norm for LA County beaches, although Hermosa Pier received four stars and Dockweiler got threes and fours.