On Memorial Day 2012, Coronado Beach in San Diego County was named the best beach in the United States by Dr Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. But he is better known as “Dr.Beach” for his annual survey of beaches, ranking the top beaches in U.S. according to 50 categories. Despite Coronado Beach’s high ranking this year, you may not be able to find other California beaches in the rating this year. According to the green organization Heal the Bay, California leads the annual “Beach Bummers” list for the West Coast. So before summer holidays 2012, here is what every beachgoer should know about beach pollution in California.
Beach pollution is usually infrequent and mostly confined to local areas but is often a persistent problem. There are different sources of pollution at the beach, yet the primary cause comes from water and marine pollution, mainly due to nearby human activities such as malfunctions of wastewater treatment plants. The majority of beach closings in the United States are due to indications of the presence of high levels of harmful microorganisms found in untreated or partially treated sewage. Untreated storm water runoff from cities and rural areas can be another significant source of pollution. In some areas, boating waste and malfunctioning septic systems can also be significant local sources of beach water pollution.
People who swim in polluted water can be exposed to bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. These pathogens can be present at or near the site where polluted discharges enter the water. Children and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to develop illnesses or infections after swimming in those areas. The most common illness associated with swimming in polluted water is gastroenteritis; other minor illnesses associated with swimming include ear, eye, nose, and throat infections. In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid fever.
In California, Los Angeles County leads the annual Beach Bummer List for the state, with seven locations ranking as the state’s 10 most polluted beaches.
Top 10 California Beach Bummers
1. Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island (Los Angeles County)
2. Cowell Beach (Santa Cruz County)
3. Puerco Beach at the Marie Canyon storm drain (Los Angeles County)
4. Surfrider Beach (Los Angeles County)
5. Dan Blocker County Beach at Solstice Creek (Los Angeles County)
6. Cabrillo Beach harborside (Los Angeles County)
7. Doheny State Beach at San Juan Creek outlet (Orange County)
8. Poche Beach (Orange County)
9. Escondido State Beach (Los Angeles County)
10. Topanga Beach (Los Angeles County)
For these reasons, the green organization Heal the Bay encourages all beachgoers to check the latest evolution of coastal water quality each week at www.beachreportcard.org, which provides data based on the latest samples. All county health departments are required to test beach water quality at least once a week during the summer season. Heal the Bay compiles the complex shoreline data, analyzes it and assigns an easy-to-understand letter grade for beachgoers. All 650 beaches in California, Oregon and Washington are analyzed each year based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution reports.
Fortunately, most of the California coastline earn excellent grades in summer dry weather and Los Angeles County is improving every year.
However, ocean water is not the only part of the beach that suffers from human activities.
Sand can also be polluted by waste such as plastic grocery bags, consumer goods, polystyrene containers and other debris. You can help restore a beach by joining a monthly beach cleanup event. It’s a great opportunity to participle in the environmental preservation of your local community.
Human activities have also more and more negative effects on marine life too. Check this post to learn more about marine biodiversity damage.