Beach bacteria report: low rankings for IB, southern beaches

The Natural Resources Defense Council, claiming to be “the nation’s most effective environmental action group,” has released its Testing the Waters 2013 report, a study on water quality at beaches typically considered prime vacation spots. California as a whole doesn’t fare well, ranking 20th of 30 states studied. San Diego, however, generally receives favorable treatment in the report, with the exception of its southernmost beaches, near Imperial Beach and the Tijuana Slough.

Out of 79 sites tested for water quality at least once during 2012 (of a possible 116), 13 reported pollution levels exceeding state safety standards more than 10 percent of the time. Eight were in the Imperial Beach area, and another was in Chula Vista.

Overall, the South Bay area combined to account for 303 of 357 total beach closure days due to pollution warnings in 2012, though it should be noted 210 of those days are attributed to 30 days’ worth of closure at seven different testing sites along a single stretch of Imperial Beach.

The Council’s report points primarily to failure to control rainwater runoff during dry seasons and trash pollution as key challenges to keeping the coast safe for beachgoers. Overall, the region seems to be on par with or slightly better than the rest of the state, where an across-the-board average of water samples shows 10 percent of tests result in bacteria counts higher than the state’s maximum acceptable level.

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