Cleanest, Most Polluted California Beaches Named in New Report by Heal the Bay
The nonprofit and environmental advocacy organization Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report Card is here, and it names some of the cleanest and most polluted beaches in California (as well as farther along the coast, from Washington state to Tijuana, Mexico). The report gives each beach a letter grade, A through F, based on pollution and water quality.
For the 2022-2023 Beach Report Card, 95% of the more than 500 evaluated beaches in California passed with an A or B rating for summer 2022.
But as The Associated Press reported, the state experienced heavy precipitation through winter and spring, leading to higher runoff and more pollutants in the water. According to the Beach Report Card, the state received 52% more precipitation than the 10-year average. There were also 45 million gallons of sewage that spilled into the oceans and coastal waterways in California over the past year, in part because of higher rainfall.
Heal the Bay noted that 56% of beaches in California had good or excellent grades during the wet weather, which was worse than average.
“As climate change continues to bring weather whiplash, our water woes will swing from scarcity to pollution. This year, record precipitation produced major impacts on water quality across Coastal California,” Tracy Quinn, president and CEO of Heal the Bay, said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we must prioritize multi-benefit projects to manage stormwater as both a water quality and supply solution, all while ensuring that the public is kept informed of risks to public health.”
Only two beaches — Point Loma in San Diego and Bean Hollow State Beach in San Mateo — made the report’s “Honor Roll” this year, far fewer than the 50 honorees in the previous report. The Honor Roll is reserved for beaches that are monitored weekly and continuously receive A+ grades, no matter the season or wet or dry conditions.
The major fall-off of Honor Roll members was partially due to the higher rates of precipitation as well as an inability to grade several beaches in the San Diego area because of a new testing method that is not yet compatible with Heal the Bay’s grading system.
Among the report’s most polluted beaches in California, tied for first are Playa Blanca in the Tijuana Area and the famous Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles County. Other members of the “Beach Bummers” list include Linda Mar Beach, San Mateo County; Marlin Park, San Mateo County; Erckenbrack Park, San Mateo County; Tijuana River Mouth, San Diego County; Pillar Point Harbor, San Mateo County; Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, Los Angeles County; Poche Beach, Orange County; and Gull Park, San Mateo County.
Heal the Bay recommends that beach-goers check for water quality updates before swimming and avoid getting in the water for at least 72 hours after it rains. The organization also says to avoid shallow, enclosed beaches with poor water circulation and to always swim at least 100 yards from storm drains, piers and creeks.