From an A to an F, beaches get graded too

An annual beach report released in May by a non-profit environmental group revealed that high levels of poor water quality exist in Los Angeles County beaches.

According to Heal the Bay, four of the 10 most polluted beaches in California are Avalon, Cabrillo, Topanga and Colorado Lagoon.  In total, water quality of L.A. County beaches is at its lowest from 79-percent  last year to 76-percent of beaches, earning an A or a B. 

Heal the Bay Beach Water Quality Scientist Amanda Griesbach said that high levels of contaminated beach water are measured through bacteria levels in the water, not pollutant or trash. However, the most commonly tested are the fecal organisms that are derived from human and animal feces.  

 “Indicator organisms show the potential for there being pathogens or bacteria or viruses present in the water,” said Griesbach. “We are testing for high concentrations of bacteria in the water and if these levels are high that will indicate a higher public health risk.”

California experienced a record rainfall this past year where cities like San Francisco obtained 1.08 inches of rain. Although, rain contributed to the high rise of poor water quality, anything that gets washed into streets whether from overwatering, washing a car or cleaning a pathway, will go down the storm drain and eventually to the ocean.

Michael Sullivan, environmental and occupational health professor at CSUN, said that urban runoff plays a big role in contaminated beach water.

“One of the main issues of beach water quality is the presence of harmful bacteria usually due from the runoff of urban areas or the release of untreated sewage into our ocean water,” said Sullivan.

Contaminated beach water can produce numerous health risks that can sicken swimmers. The most common health risks are stomach flu, skin rashes and eye infections. 

With summer and its sizzling temperatures just around the corner the annual report gives the public important information before heading to the beach to cool off. Before taking a splash visit Heal the Bay’s website www.healthebay.org where the beach report card is accessible. Water quality levels are tested weekly and as a result the organization updates the website constantly.

Junior Laura Poghossian, psychology and biology major, said the report doesn’t surprise her and her thoughts regarding water quality remain the same.

“I feel like it’s dirty,” said Poghossian. “I usually go to the beach but I don’t really go into the water.”