Beaches pass annual environmental test

Bay Area lovers of sand and surf can leave their latex bodysuits at home — the region’s beaches overwhelmingly passed their annual environmental report card.

Thirty beaches were monitored for water quality in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, and only one — Venice Beachat Frenchman’s Creek in Half Moon Bay — received an “F” during dry weather, according to the 17th Annual Beach Report Card released by Heal the Bay, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the state’s beaches.

Venice Beach made the report card’s “Beach Bummer” locations list as the beach with the eighth-worst water quality in all of California during dry weather.

But otherwise, Bay Area beaches did quite well as compared to their Southern California counterparts, officials said.

“The Bay Area did excellent this year,” said James Alamillo, the report card manager for Heal the Bay. “Water quality has definitely been improving that I’ve seen over the last few years.”

The report on 523 beaches across the state gathers data from fecal bacteria monitoring at the beaches to determine a grade. The report does not contain information on toxins or garbage in the water.

Water quality is measured year-round and is judged during wet weather, when rainstorms send runoff and pollutants into the water, and in dry weather.

After rainstorms, three beaches in San Mateo County received a “C” or “D”: Pillar Point Harbor at the end of Westpoint Avenue; Surfer’s Beach; and Linda Mar Beach at San Pedro Creek.

Venice Beach is a “haven for seabirds,” and their waste is a primary factor in high bacteria levels at the beach, according to the report.

Another beach, Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue, goes unmonitored because it is so dirty from birds and the lack of water circulation, said Dean Peterson, Director of Environmental Health for the county. Warnings of the high bacteria levels are posted at the beach, he said.

Of the 14 beaches tested in San Francisco last year, two beaches — Windsurfer’s Circle at Candlestick Point and Sunnydale Cove — received “F’s” during wet weather.

The highly popular East Beach at Crissy Field received a “D” after storms and was the only beach in San Francisco to receive less than an “A” during dry weather when it received a “C” for its water quality during dry times over the winter.

A bright spot for San Francisco is Baker Beach at Lobos Creek, which in years past has received failing grades, but this year received an “A.” Alamillo cautioned that a single good year does not mean a beach has been reformed.

“Your problem beaches tend to be your problem beaches,” Alamillo said.

Officials said the report card helps dispel the myth that Northern California beaches are not used — they are used for educational and recreational purposes year-round. Students explore tidepools on the coast and mothers and children use protected beaches in harbors, said Carolann Towe with the San Mateo Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

“It’s important for public health that we keep on top of the water quality,” she said.

dsmith@examiner.com


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