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Santa Monica, Malibu beaches among state's 10 most polluted

Santa Monica Pier and Malibu's Surfrider earn dreaded spots on Heal the Bay's annual 'Beach Bummer' list. Twenty-three California beaches receive a failing grade.

May 21, 2009|Martha Groves

Santa Monica Pier and Surfrider Beach in Malibu earned spots on Heal the Bay's dreaded "Beach Bummer" list as the nonprofit water-watchdog group Wednesday issued its annual pollution report card.

They were among the 10 worst of 23 state beaches that received an F grade for pollution.

Los Angeles County had the worst overall beach water quality in California last year, according to the report.

Overall dry-weather water quality in L.A. County for 2008-09 fell slightly below the county's five-year average, dragged down by chronically polluted beaches in Malibu, Santa Monica and Long Beach.

Other beaches in the county on the bummer list were Avalon Harbor Beach on Santa Catalina Island, Cabrillo Beach (harborside) in San Pedro, Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach and the city of Long Beach at the Los Angeles River outlet.

Heal the Bay data analyst Mike Grimmer said spotlighting water-quality problems has spurred action: At least seven "bummer" sites have been allocated funds for pollution reduction under the state's clean beach initiative. Santa Monica, for example, Wednesday turned on a new pump at the pier intended to redirect runoff to a recycling facility.

"We expect to see improvement at these beaches once the projects are completed," Grimmer said.

For the first time, Heal the Bay also handed out A+ grades to 79 beaches that never exceeded bacterial standards. Among those sites were Will Rogers State Beach on Pacific Coast Highway, Dockweiler State Beach at the Imperial Highway drain and Portuguese Bend Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Heal the Bay analysts assigned A through F grades to 94 Los Angeles County beaches for the dry-weather period from March 2008 through April 2009, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution. Seventy percent of sites in the county earned A or B grades during dry weather, whereas 85% of locations statewide received those grades.

Wet-weather water quality in L.A. County was the worst since 2004-05, with 81% of 94 monitored beaches receiving D or F grades after rain.

On a troubling note, the group said Ventura County had ceased ocean testing because the state eliminated funds to support regular monitoring.

"With the summer coming, the state has made assurances that it will start restoring funding to beach monitoring programs, but there is no firm date," said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. "Until then, swimmers in many locations in greater Southern California are truly swimming at their own risk."

The report is available at www.healthebay.org.

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martha.groves@latimes.com

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