San Diego County fared better than much of the rest of Southern California last year in terms of beach water quality, but pollution problems persist in certain areas, according to a report released Wednesday by an environmental organization.
Beaches in Los Angeles County had the highest percentage of days exceeding state standards for bacteria, at 16 percent, followed by Orange and Santa Barbara counties, each with 8 percent; San Diego, with 6 percent; and San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties at 5 percent each, according to the National Resources Defense Council's report.
Water quality continues to be a problem at Tourmaline Surfing Park in Pacific Beach, at various beaches along Mission Bay, and at Border Field State Park and parts of Imperial Beach, according to Noah Garrison, an attorney for the NRDC's Water Program.
Overall, San Diego County "fared better" than elsewhere in Southern California, he said.
One North County beach, Cardiff State Beach, earned the NRDC's "five-star" rating among the nation's 200 most popular beaches. Cardiff State Beach was the only beach in San Diego County to get the accolade.
According to the NRDC's 20th annual beach water report, there were 2,904 closure and advisory days in the state last year, and 18,682 nationwide.
The California total was a 30 percent drop from 2008. The report noted that Northern California beaches saw a dramatic increase in closure and advisory days, but Southern California had a dramatic drop — due largely to the lack of testing and drier-than-usual weather in 2009.
The report said budget cuts brought on by the sagging economy have led to a dramatic drop in the amount of Southern California beach-water testing last year, raising the possibility of health risks for swimmers and surfers.
"Less testing may lead to fewer pollution warnings, but it doesn't make our beaches any cleaner," said Garrison. "In order to keep our beaches safe for swimmers and surfers, it's critical that we test for pollution and alsostop it at its source."
Overall, beach testing dropped by 24 percent between 2008 and 2009 in Southern California, the report found. The drop was cited as a major factor in the statewide drop in beach closure and health-advisory days across the state last year, according to the report.