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Good LB Beach News With Caveats: Many LB Beaches Score "A"s in "Heal the Bay" 2001-2002 Report Card; Colorado Lagoon (north) Does Poorly; Detailed Monitoring Histories Show Weekly Test Results Can Fluctuate Greatly

(May 23, 2002) -- Heal the Bay's 2001-2002 "Year in Review" Beach Report Card issued today shows several LB beaches scoring "A"'s (some an "A+") and the northern part of Colorado Lagoon scoring an "F" (4/01-10/01) and a "D" (4/01-3/02) during dry periods.

LBReport.com gives our readers an opportunity to view detailed data that go behind traditional newspaper headlines. Viewing the history of individual beaches, thanks to Heal the Bay's detailed web site, shows some beaches that received "A" or "B" grades over the "Year in Review" periods periodically received lower marks (including some "F"s), prompting caveats from the Chairman of LB's chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

LBReport.com has posted links below to detailed information on Heal the Bay's web site, so our readers can have direct access to the data. Heal the Bay's web site also includes periodically updated data and we have also posted links to this, below.

Responding to Heal the Bay's "Year in Review" Report Card, the Chairman of LB's branch of the Surfrider Foundation, Robert Palmer, said he was glad Heal the Bay posted the data but urged people to use it "intelligently and examine weekly results for particular beaches."

Mr. Palmer also noted the Report Card is based on bacterial monitoring results (like fecal matter) and does not include (or claim to include) other environmental toxics such as DDT, lead, arsenic and the like.

Dr. Gordon LaBedz of the LB Surfrider Foundation added:

"The Heal the Bay report is an enormously valuable tool for swimmers and surfers to educate themselves about bacteria pollution at our beaches. The area behind the LB Breakwater should be considered a port rather than a true beach. The "beach" at Long Beach is subject to far more pollutants than just storm drain bacteria from the land. Heal the Bay does not have the resources to monitor the common oil and chemical slicks, the algae blooms and all the various toxins that coat our foul smelling "beaches" in Long Beach. The port and its foul pollutants are not measured by the Heal the Bay report card."

Regarding Colorado Lagoon (north, "F" & "D", south "B" & "C", center "A" & "B"), Michael Pauls, President of Friends of Colorado Lagoon, told LBReport.com, "The number one need for Colorado Lagoon is to increase the amount of tidal flushing. LB residents have drawn the line and said we want the Lagoon clean for ourselves and our children."

Heal the Bay says its grades are based "on the risk of adverse health effects to humans. The grades are derived from daily and weekly bacterial pollution levels in the surf zone, using routine monitoring data from local health agencies and dischargers. Water samples are analyzed for bacteria that indicate pollution from numerous sources, including fecal waste."

Heal the Bay says its Beach Report Card "is an indication of past water quality and is not a warranty of the current safety of those areas surveyed. The grades are based on daily and weekly bacterial levels in the surf zone that indicate pollution from numerous sources, including fecal waste. The higher the grade the lower the risk of illness to ocean users. The report is not designed to measure the amount of trash or toxins found at California beaches."

Heal the Bay notes its Year in Review grades "are generally better than in previous years, largely due to the lack of rainfall. Nonetheless, storm drain runoff continues as the largest source of pollution to local beaches, flowing untreated to the coast and severely impacting water quality. It is often contaminated with motor oil, animal waste, pesticides, yard waste and trash. And as before, the dry weather water quality at open ocean beaches without a storm drain was significantly better than beaches impacted by a storm drain. Beaches located within an enclosed bay or harbor had the poorest water quality of the three conditions. These locations continue to present a public health problem as they are popular with young beachgoers due to their lack of waves and currents."

Heal the Bay added, "Although there's an ongoing perception that much of the ocean water along California's coast is polluted, Heal the Bay's extensive research shows the majority of our beaches are clean and safe during dry weather. This is good news since dry weather primarily occurs during summer months when California's beaches are visited the most."

Some of Heal the Bay's dry weather highlights for 2001-2002:

  • 70% of Southern California beaches (275 of 394) received an "A" grade during dry weather.
  • 93% of open ocean beaches (i.e. locations not within an enclosed bay, harbor or marina, and not impacted by a storm drain) received an "A" grade.
  • 42 California beaches received a "D" or "F" grade during dry weather conditions.
  • Only 73% of those beaches impacted by a storm drain and only 43% of those beaches within an enclosed bay, harbor, or marina received an "A" grade...[and] are typically laden with bacteria due to the lack of tidal flush and water circulation.
  • When it rains there continue to be major pollution issues confronting California beaches - namely untreated storm drain runoff contaminated with motor oil, animal waste, pesticides, yard waste and trash. This is evident in the tremendous disparity between the dry and wet season grades demonstrating that beachgoers need to be wary when entering the water during the rainy season.
  • An alarming 40% (107) of the 394 monitored California beaches received an "F" during inclement wet weather conditions compared to only 7% during dry weather.
  • The percentage of wet weather "A" beaches plummeted to 27% (72 of 394), compared to 70% (275 locations) during dry weather.

Heal the Bay concluded, "The majority of our beach waters are clean and safe during dry weather and pose little, if any health risk." However, Heal the Bay recommended the following ways to protect you and your family when going to the beach:

  • Check the online Beach Report Card [updated, on link below]. Use this information as you would use sunscreen SPF ratings: decide what you are comfortable with in terms of relative risk, and then make the necessary decisions to protect your health.
  • When at the beach never swim or surf within 100 yards of any flowing storm drain, even in dry weather.
  • Do not go into any coastal waters during, and for at least three (3) days after, a rainstorm. After a rain, indicator bacteria counts usually exceed state health criteria for recreational use.

LB Surfrider chair Palmer cautioned that the Health Dept. monitored data used in the Report Card are snapshots in time and could fluctuate greatly over days and in some cases over hours.

"We view the grades as a composite of weeks of snapshots in time, measuring bacterial data only, and should be viewed accordingly," Surfrider chair Palmer told LBReport.com. Mr. Palmer added, "In addition to using the detailed web site data for each particular beach, I'd go to the sites themselves and actually look at the water."

LBReport.com posts links to the some pertinent Heal the Bay web site pages below. Clicking on our hyperlink will open a separate window so after viewing, you can close it to return to LBReport.com.

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