Poche and Newport Bay Stink, But OC Beaches Get Overall Excellent Heal the Bay Scores

Heal the Bay's End of Summer Beach Report Card shows water quality at Orange County beaches was slightly worse this summer compared to summer '09, but 97 percent of OC beaches still received excellent A or B grades. By comparison, 79 percent of Los Angeles County beaches received A's or B's.

Poche Beach in San Clemente and Newport Bay's Grant Avenue Beach each received F's this summer from the Santa Monica nonprofit.

Heal the Bay's report claims technical problems with a year-old UV treatment facility at the mouth of Poche Creek is the likely cause for the failing grade there. The city of San Clemente recently initiated a source tracking effort for the beach.

Doheny's North Beach in historically dirty Dana Point earned a C grade, which is considered poor. However, other problem beaches in Dana Point's recent past received A grades--including all of the baby beaches--for the second summer in a row.

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"Notably, Orange County conducted a rapid methods pilot project for eight weeks this summer, with the goal of generating same-day beach water quality results to increase public health protection," states the report.

Current water quality testing for measuring bacteria takes 18 to 24 hours to process results, so the most current beach water quality information is a day old. Nine Orange County beaches were tested daily under the pilot program, which used LCD screens to display the latest water quality data, with a goal of having it locked in by noon. Eight weeks of sampling is being analyzed and will be made available to the public this fall, Heal the Bay says.

When it came to sewage, the report shows:

  • There were four known sewage spills in Orange County during the summer of 2010.
  • Three sites along Laguna Beach were closed for five days in late June due to a sewage spill. On July 21, another sewage spill resulted in a one day beach closure 150 feet up-coast and down-coast of Aliso Creek at Aliso County Beach.
  • In early July, all of Little Corona Beach in Newport Bay was closed for one day as a result of a sewage spill.
  • On Aug. 7, a 1,125-gallon sewage spill was caused by a line blockage in the city of La Habra, resulting in the closure of Seal Beach from the San Gabriel River to 300 feet down coast for three days.


During the summer that wasn't, overall California beach water quality was among cleanest on record. "Despite a few problem areas, statewide water quality was very good with 92% A and B grades," the report states. "There were 37 locations (8%) throughout the state that received fair-to-poor water quality grades (10 Cs, 9 Ds and 18 Fs)."

Trouble looms, Heal the Bay warns, because beach monitoring programs "continue to be severely threatened by a lack of sustainable funding beyond 2010."

"For the last three years, over $1 million in general funding has not been available for the state's beach water quality monitoring program," reads the report. "These funds were used for the collection and processing of beach water samples, as well as posting water quality notification signs alerting the public of potential health risks."

To cover lost funding, the State Water Resources Control Board provided supplemental bond money through the end of 2010, but it is unknown now if money will be available in 2011.

Read the full report here.


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