Area beaches earn good grades in ‘Beach Report Card’


San Diego County had near-perfect water quality during the summer months last year, according to the 19th annual “Beach Report Card’’ released Wednesday by an environmental group.

Ninety-seven percent of the 93 beaches along San Diego’s coast that were monitored for the annual statewide study received A grades over the summer months, according to Heal the Bay.

None of San Diego beaches made Heal the Bay’s list of “Beach Bummers.’’ However, the apparent good news might not reflect the big picture as the state’s budget crisis has led to a significant drop in the amount of beach water quality monitoring year-round.

The county stopped beach water quality monitoring last September, after it lost state funding that offset the costs of weekly testing.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors later stepped in with $100,000 to revive the ocean monitoring program, but only 39 sites were tested regularly this past winter, according to Heal the Bay.

“With summer coming, the state has made assurances that it will start restoring funding to beach monitoring programs, but there is no firm date,’’ said Mark Gold, Heal the Bay’s president. “Until then, swimmers in many locations in San Diego are truly swimming at their own risk.’’

Heal the Bay released the results of its “Beach Report Card’’ at an event this morning in Imperial Beach.

Much of Imperial Beach, which is plagued by the untreated sewage flowing from the Tijuana River, received F grades during wet-weather winter monitoring. High concentrations of hepatitis A were detected at beaches along the U.S/Mexico border during wet weather.

According to Heal the Bay, 29 beaches were closed in San Diego County due to sewage spills between April 2008 and March of this year.

Two of the three largest spills were the result of maintenance and repair at a pump station in Mexico. A third closed Dog Beach in Ocean Beach at the outlet of the San Diego River.

Los Angeles County had the worst overall beach water quality last year in California, according to Heal the Bay.

Fifteen beaches in Los Angeles County received year-round F grades, with a half-dozen of those ranking on the organization’s annual “Beach Bummer’’ list of the most polluted sites in the state.

Overall, Orange County beaches recorded water quality grades that were well above the state average, according to the group. Some 97 percent of 103 monitoring locations got an A or B during the summer, as well as 93 percent for year-round dry weather.

The Heal the Bay report card on coastal water quality is based on daily and weekly samples taken from sites along the state’s coastline.