Palisades Beaches Score Low Winter Water Quality Scores

Woolsey Fire leads to poor quality at some beaches 

By Keldine Hull 

Heal the Bay is a Santa Monica based environmental non-profit dedicated to the preservation of coastal waters and watersheds throughout Los Angeles. Last month, Heal the Bay released its highly anticipated 2018- 2019 Beach Report Card (BRC). For the last 25 years, the BRC has provided valuable information on water quality at beaches throughout California, Oregon, and Washington. 

According to Heal the Bay, “The public must have accessible and easy- to- understand information about water quality so they can make informed decisions about where and when to get in the water.” Higher grades mean safer beaches and a lower risk of illness for beachgoers. Approximately one million ocean beachgoers get sick each year in Los Angeles County and Orange County alone with total healthcare costs of $20 million to $50 million. 

BRC grades are based on routine water quality sampling by County and State health agencies, sanitation departments, and dischargers on the West Coast. Each beach gets a separate grade for Summer Dry Weather (April 2018 to October 2018), Winter Dry Weather (November 2018 to March 2019), and Wet Weather Conditions (April 2018 to March 2019). 

All Pacific Palisades beaches were given A grades during the summer months. Topanga Beach, however, earned a B rating during the winter while dry and an F grade winter during rain. The Santa Monica Canyon drain site similar earned a D rating during winter while dry and an F during winter while wet. 

Further north, many beaches in Malibu earned poor winter grades, specifically Surfrider Beach (D and F), Leo Carillo (F and F), Paradise Cove (F and F) and Zuma Beach (D and F)

According to Heal the Bay, the Woolsey Fire in November may be partly to blame for poor water quality in the northern parts of Los Angeles County.

“We investigated the impact of the Woolsey Fire on Malibu beaches and found that water quality grades decreased dramatically after the fire. Wildfires increase runoff due to vegetation loss and infrastructure damage,” Heal the Bay said. “As the effects of climate change are realized, we can expect more wildfires and more rainfall across coastal areas of California, which can have a negative impact on water quality and public health if no preventative actions are taken to protect our communities and natural habitats.”

Heal the Bay’s annual report card also includes an Honor Roll for beaches that received an A+ for all seasons and weather conditions, as well as the Beach Bummer list for beaches that received the ten poorest Summer Grades. Out of 500 monitored beaches, 33 made it to the Honor Roll including 2 Los Angeles County Beaches: Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro and Malibu’s Las Tunas County Beach at Pena Creek. Four Los Angeles County beaches landed on the Beach Bummer list including Mother’s Beach, between Tower and Boat Dock, in Marina Del Rey. 

Overall, California beach water quality sagged in 2018-19, driven in large part by increased rainfall. California often swings from extended dry periods to shorter periods of intense, wet weather.

“When rains do increase, as we saw in the 2018-2019 winter season, the State of California needs to do a better job of capturing, treating, and reusing runoff so it can be a resource, not a nuisance,” Heal the Bay said.

To see the grades for your favorite beaches, visit: https://www.beachreportcard.org/33.91029999999999/-118.51929100000001/11

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