How local beaches scored on Heal the Bay’s water quality report card

Long Beach beaches didn’t make the honor roll—but they didn’t land on the “bummer” list, either.

The city’s coastline is relatively free of bacteria and safe for swimmers during summer and winter months, according to Heal the Bay’s 31st annual Beach Report Card, released this week ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

The nonprofit collects samples from roughly 500 points along the California coast, including open-water, marinas, bays, rivers and other places where people recreate. The samples included in this week’s report were collected during summer dry months (April to October, 2020), winter months (November 2020 to March 2021), as well as immediately after wet weather events, when water is more polluted.

Several Long Beach open-water beaches, as well as Mothers Beach, Belmont Pier and three points along Alamitos Bay, scored F grades immediately after wet weather, as both the San Gabriel and Los Angeles rivers empty into the local coastal waters.

However, Alamitos Bay in particular did very well during summer and winter months.

Colorado Lagoon, which, prior to 2012 showed up annually on the “Beach Bummer” list of the worst grades in the state, continued to be a success story after years of dredging and restoration efforts over the past decade. Improvements have included new landscaping to catch runoff from the neighboring golf course, a trash catch basin and the removal of thousands of pounds of polluted sediment.

A stretch of beach off Coronado Avenue just north Belmont Pier also improved from two years ago, when it was ranked the fourth dirtiest beach in the state.

No beach in the city scored below a C in dry summer or winter months.

The only beach in Los Angeles County to make the “Beach Bummer” list for the worst water quality was Marina Del Rey Mothers Beach, which is enclosed and experiences little wave action so bacteria pollution does not get flushed away from the shore.

Orange County beaches in Seal Beach, Sunset Beach, Surfside and Bolsa Chica—all popular destinations for locals—also ranked well this year, with Sunset Beach at Broadway even scoring a B grade during rain events.

Overall California beaches fared well, with 93% scoring either an A or B grade, which is on par with the five-year average, according to the report.

Polluted waters raise the risk contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes. The highest risk time to enter the water locally is immediately after it rains, as bacteria is flushed through storm drains and rivers into the ocean.

The report notes that the coastal areas saw a 41% decrease in precipitation this winter. Some of the lower grades around wet weather in this year’s report were due to the high number of “first flush” samples because it rained so infrequently.

The 10 most polluted beaches in the state, also known as the “Beach Bummer” list, include:

  1. Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Tijuana River mouth – San Diego County
  2. Foster City, Erckenbrack Park – San Mateo County
  3. Capitola Beach, west of jetty – Santa Cruz County
  4. Foster City, Gull Park – San Mateo County
  5. Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, between Lifeguard Tower and Boat dock – Los Angeles County
  6. Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, 3/4 miles north of Tijuana River – San Diego County
  7. Clam Beach County Park at Strawberry Creek – Humboldt County
  8. Foster City, Marlin Park – San Mateo County
  9. Candlestick Point, Windsurfer Circle – San Francisco County
  10. East Beach at Mission Creek – Santa Barbara County

The state’s “Honor Roll” list includes 35 beaches that scored perfect water quality year-round: 

  1. Crown Beach, at Sunset Road – Alameda County
  2. Royal Palms State Beach – Los Angeles County
  3. Leo Carrillo Beach, at Arroyo Sequit Creek – Los Angeles County
  4. Puerco State Beach, at creek mouth – Los Angeles County
  5. Las Flores State Beach, at Las Flores Creek – Los Angeles County
  6. Broad Beach, at Trancas Creek – Los Angeles County
  7. Escondido State Beach, at Escondido Creek – Los Angeles County
  8. Nicholas Beach, at San Nicholas Canyon Creek – Los Angeles County
  9. Newport Bay, Promontory Point – Orange County
  10. Crystal Cove (CSDOC) – Orange County
  11. Newport Beach, at Orange Street – Orange County
  12. Newport Beach, at 52nd/53rd Street – Orange County
  13. Balboa Beach Pier – Orange County
  14. Balboa Beach, The Wedge – Orange County
  15. Crystal Cove – Orange County
  16. 1000 Steps Beach, at 9th St. – Orange County
  17. North Aliso County Beach – Orange County
  18. Treasure Island Beach – Orange County
  19. Carlsbad, at Encina Creek – San Diego County
  20. Carlsbad, at Palomar Airport Road – San Diego County
  21. Solana Beach, Tide Beach Park at Solana Vista Dr. – San Diego County
  22. Guadalupe Dunes – Santa Barbara County
  23. El Capitan State Beach – Santa Barbara County
  24. China Beach, at Sea Cliff Ave. – San Francisco County
  25. Ocean Beach, at Lincoln Way – San Francisco County
  26. Sewers at Silver Shoals Drive – San Luis Obispo County
  27. Morro Bay City Beach, at Atascadero – San Luis Obispo County
  28. Pismo State Beach, 330 yards north of Pier Ave. – San Luis Obispo County
  29. Hollywood Beach, at Los Robles St. – Ventura County
  30. C.I. Harbor, at Hobie Beach Lakeshore Drive – Ventura County
  31. Oil Piers Beach, south of storm drain – Ventura County
  32. Silverstrand, at Sawtelle Ave. – Ventura County
  33. Ormond Beach, 50 yards north of Oxnard Industrial drain – Ventura County
  34. Ormond Beach, at Arnold Road – Ventura County
  35. Faria County Park, at stairs – Ventura Count

Heal the Bay also graded 28 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County within the LA River, San Gabriel River and Malibu Creek Watersheds during summer 2020.

LA’s Freshwater Fails List includes nine river recreation sites in Los Angeles County that are high-risk places to swim or boat:

  • 1. Tujunga Wash at Hansen Dam – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 2. LA River at Rattlesnake Park – LA River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 3. San Gabriel River Below North and West Forks – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 4. LA River at Middle of Sepulveda Basin Recreation Zone – LA River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 5-6. Bull Creek – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 5-6. Lake Balboa Boat Ramp – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 7. Lake Balboa Outlet – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 8. LA River at Balboa Blvd. – LA River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 9. Switzer Falls – Upper LA River Watershed

LA’s Freshwater Honor Roll List includes 10 river recreation sites in Los Angeles County that are low-risk places to swim or boat.

  • 1-8. San Gabriel River East Fork at Graveyard Canyon – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 1-8. LA River at Benedict St. (formerly Frogspot) – LA River Watershed: Recreation Zones
  • 1-8. Gould Mesa – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 1-8. Hansen Dam Lake – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 1-8. San Gabriel River Lower North Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 1-8. Sturtevant Falls – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 1-8. San Gabriel River Upper North Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed
  • 1-8. Big Tujunga Creek at Vogel Flats – Upper LA. River Watershed
  • 8-10. San Gabriel River Upper East Fork – Upper LA River Watershed
  • 8-10. San Gabriel River Upper West Fork – San Gabriel River Watershed

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
- ADVERTISEMENT -

More