Ten percent of water samples at California beaches last year contained more human fecal bacteria than the state allows, according to a study released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Violations of daily maximum bacterial standards at 227 California beaches increased 4% from 2007 to 2008, the study found.
"Many Californians were sickened or became ill after going to polluted beaches last year," Michelle Mehta, an attorney with the council's water program, said in a written statement. "The problem of beach water pollution has not improved and millions of people visiting California's world-renowned beaches continue to be at risk."
Although California may be famous for its surfing and swimming, the state ranked among the worst in beach water quality nationwide, coming in 22nd out of 30 coastal states. Los Angeles County was home to the most polluted beach water, with 20% of samples exceeding state standards.
In May, Heal the Bay also ranked Los Angeles beaches as worst in the state for water quality.
Bacteria can flow into beach water from sewage accidents such as the spill that forced closures in Long Beach on Monday. Storm water flowing through urban areas can also pick up animal waste, fertilizer, motor oil and other contaminants that are dumped into the ocean.