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Beach Report Card Gives California Good Marks, Unless It Rains

Los Angeles County's beaches fare worse than last year in the environmental group's annual ratings.

Los Angeles County's beaches are among the state's most bacteria-ridden, according to the annual Beach Report Card from environmental group Heal the Bay, released Wednesday at a news conference on the Santa Monica Pier.

Only 75 percent of L.A. County's beaches scored A or B grades during year-round dry weather, Heal the Bay reported, a 5 percent decrease from last year. Still, overall, California's beaches fared well. The reports, which are calculated based on weekly testing across 445 state beaches, show that almost 90 percent of our beaches routinely receive A or B grades.

The real issue is rain.

In Los Angeles County, 46 percent of our beaches get an F during wet weather, when rain overloads drainage systems and pushes sewage and other bacteria out to sea.

Four of the top 10 "Beach Bummers," Heal the Bay's list of worst-performing beaches, are located in Los Angeles County: Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island, Cabrillo Beach, Topanga State Beach and Colorado Lagoon.

"People blame birds or kelp, but that doesn't explain the huge discrepancies between dry weather and rainy weather bacteria levels," said Heal the Bay President Dr. Mark Gold. "A hundred percent of beaches with no drainage got an A in dry weather.

"Soon or later, local government is going to have to generate revenue to clean up our beaches," Gold said.

Gold pointed to where he was standing, the Santa Monica Pier, as an example of how local government can help protect the ocean and swimmers. Santa Monica replaced the storm drain under the pier, and has installed nets to prevent birds. The project was funded by Measure V, the Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax, which passed in 2006.

"This beach, which went from one of the worst in the state, got an A this year," Santa Monica City Councilman Bobby Shriver said. He thanked Santa Monica residents for voting to tax themselves to complete the project.

Manhattan Beach, from El Porto to the drain at 28th Street, is a typical Los Angeles County beach: clean in dry weather, hazardous to your health in rainy, scoring F grades in wet weather and A+s in dry. The one Manhattan Beach spot that gets an A+ in wet and dry weather is the Manhattan Beach Pier.

"Water quality is very important to public health," said Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Dr. Aliza Lifshitz. She cautioned swimmers and parents to be alert for upper respiratory and intestinal infections, as well as rashes from exposure to bacteria.

She also warned parents about the still waters that families tend to flock to. "The areas that seem ideal for young kids are also ideal for bacteria," she said.

This was the 21st year Heal the Bay released a Beach Report Card. Heal the Bay's local partners test the ocean for contaminants year-round, but due to cuts enacted during the Schwarzenegger administration, state funding for beach monitoring is expected to end this year.

The complete report can be found at www.beachreportcard.org.

This was the first year Heal the Bay's report card included beaches in Oregon and Washington.

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