NEWS WORTH NOTING: Heal the Bay Beach Report: Arid weather lifts water quality at Southern California beaches; Settlement ends Nestlé’s expired ‘zombie’ permit to siphon water from the San Bernardino National Forest

Heal the Bay Beach Report: Arid weather lifts water quality at Southern California beaches

Lack of rain dramatically improves grades in Heal the Bay’s 2017-18 annual survey

From Heal the Bay:

There’s one silver lining in Southern California’s recent swing back to drought-like conditions – improved beach water quality.

With less rain, bacterial pollution at our local beaches dipped dramatically in 2017-18, according to Heal the Bay’s 28th annual Beach Report Card, which the nonprofit released today. Some 95% of the beaches monitored in Southern California earned A grades during the busy summer season, a 5% uptick from the reporting period’s five-year average.

In another positive sign, a record 37 beaches in California made the Heal the Bay Honor Roll this year – meaning they are monitored year-round and score perfect A-plus grades each week during all seasons and weather conditions.

Despite the good news for beachgoers, Heal the Bay scientists remain concerned about the long-range prognosis for beach water quality – given our state’s boom-and-bust rain cycles.

In the previous reporting period, heavy winter rains washed billions of gallons of bacteria-laden runoff onto Southern California shorelines. That slurry – containing trash, fertilizer, pet waste, metal and automotive fluids – flows into storm drains and out to the ocean.

Runoff poses significant health risks to the tens of thousands of year-round ocean users in Southern California, who can contract a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness from one morning swim or surf session in polluted waters. Gastrointestinal illnesses caused by recreating in L.A. and Orange County ocean waters lead to at least $20 million in economic losses each year, according to UCLA researchers.

In response, Heal the Bay is supporting an effort to place a public funding measure on the November ballot in L.A. County to build infrastructure for increased stormwater capture. By harnessing the intense rains that are sure to come again, we can increase local water supply and reduce harmful pollution.

In L.A. County, Heal the Bay scientists assigned A-to-F letter grades to 94 beaches for three reporting periods in the 2017-18 report, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution measured by county health agencies. Some 97% of beaches received A or B grades for the high-traffic summer period (April-October 2017), a 6% uptick from the five-year average.

The news for summer beachgoers is equally encouraging in Ventura and Orange counties. Some 94% of Orange County’s 121 monitored beaches notched A grades in summer dry weather in this year’s report, while Ventura’s 40 monitored beaches scored a perfect 100% for the eighth consecutive year.

San Diego County also scored top summer marks, with 100% of 69 monitored sites receiving A or B grades. But its wet-weather grades fell significantly below the five-year average. Santa Barbara County’s 16 monitored beaches also earned 100% A or B grades in the summer, but half of them earned D or F grades in the winter rainy season.

Despite the encouraging news overall in dry weather, stubborn pockets of chronic pollution still plague several popular beaches locally. Southern California accounted for three sites listed on Heal the Bay’s infamous Beach Bummer List, which ranks the 10 most polluted beaches in the state:

No. 1- Poche Beach at ocean outlet, San Clemente  This O.C. site is the single most polluted beach in the state, according to the report. It’s a “point zero” site, meaning weekly samples are taken directly where a stream, creek or stormdrain discharges to the sea. Elevated pollution from Poche Creek is no doubt leading to bacterial exceedances.

 No. 7 – Santa Monica Pier  Moist conditions, flocks of birds and stormdrain runoff are likely culprits. Construction has begun on a 1.6-million gallon stormwater storage tank that should help.

 No. 9 – Cabrillo Beach, harbor side, San Pedro  This site returns to the Bummer List after a two-year absence.  Lack of circulation means unsafe levels of bacteria. The County continues to fine-tune a circulation device and bird deterrents.

Several other Southern California beaches received annual grades of C for bacterial exceedances, warranting caution. These hot spots include Monarch Beach in Orange County, San Clemente Pier in Orange County and Topanga State Beach in Los Angeles County.

On the positive side, several SoCal beaches named as 2016-17 Beach Bummers fell off this year’s list of the most-polluted beaches in the state. Among those showing marked improvement: La Jolla Cove in San Diego and historically troubled Mother’s Beach in Marina Del Rey.

“A day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick,” said Dr. Shelley Luce, president and CEO of Heal the Bay. “We are glad to see water quality improving, but there are no guarantees. Anyone headed to the beach should visit Heal the Bay’s new website to get the latest grades and predictions.”

Swimming at a beach with a water quality grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes.

For a detailed look at beach results for each county and report methodology, please refer to our complete report. A PDF version is available at www.healthebay.org/beachreportcard

Click here to read more.

How to stay safe at the beach

  • Check the newly redesigned beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches with poor circulation
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks and piers

Heal the Bay to NowCast water quality

This summer Heal the Bay, Stanford University, and UCLA are expanding their predictive beach water-quality NowCasting program. Using sophisticated statistical models, environmental data, and past bacteria samples, the scientific team can accurately predict each morning when beaches should be posted with warning or open signs because of potential bacterial pollution.

Promising results from the past three summers demonstrated that the public can be notified immediately at pollution-impacted beaches based on computer modeling rather than waiting days for test results. These new models will protect public health by providing more advanced water quality information to public health officials. This summer, Heal the Bay will run models for 20 beaches – 10 of them new — from San Diego to San Francisco counties. Scientists will post predictions each morning on the Beach Report Card website and mobile app.

About the Beach Report Card

All county health departments in California are required to test beach water quality samples for three types of indicator bacteria at least once a week during the summer season. Many counties also monitor heavily used beaches year-round. Heal the Bay compiles the complex shoreline data, analyzes it and assigns an easy-to-understand letter grade.

The summary includes an analysis of water quality for three time periods: summer dry season (April through October 2017), winter dry weather (November 2017 through March 2018) and year-round wet weather conditions. The grading methodology is endorsed by the State Water Resources Control Board.

A FAQ section, methodology, and weekly grade updates can be found at www.beachreportcard.org.  Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is made possible through the generous support of SIMA and the Swain Barber Foundation.

Settlement Ends Nestlé’s Expired ‘Zombie’ Permit to Siphon Water from the San Bernardino National Forest

Strawberry Creek, Wildlife Remain at Risk from Commercial Exploitation

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

Federal officials and conservation groups reached an agreement today that will finally end Nestlé Corp.’s ability to rely on a permit that expired 30 years ago to siphon water from the San Bernardino National Forest for its massive bottled-water operation. The company’s diversion has severely reduced water in spring-fed Strawberry Creek, which forest wildlife and plants need to survive.

Today’s settlement of the 2015 lawsuit requires the U.S. Forest Service to decide in 30 days whether or not to issue a new permit for the pipeline and Nestlé’s associated activities in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Courage Campaign Institute, and the Story of Stuff Project agreed to dismiss an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the old “zombie” permit after a new decision is issued. The groups reserved the right to challenge any new Forest Service decision. 

Under the expired permit, Nestlé siphoned off between 32 and 162 million gallons of water a year from Strawberry Creek. Nestlé, the world’s largest water-bottling company, earned $8.3 billion in profits from its water business in 2016. U.S. Geological Survey reports from July 2017 show that, despite heavy winter precipitation across California, Strawberry Creek’s streamflow levels were the lowest since the agency began keeping track 96 years ago.

The State Water Resources Control Board is also evaluating Nestlé’s water rights on Strawberry Creek, which a board investigation determined is far less than the corporation claims.

“We are encouraged that the Forest Service is finally fulfilling its duty to the public by ending Nestlé’s more than 30 years of unpermitted water taking from the San Bernardino National Forest. Any objective, scientifically rigorous analysis will demonstrate what biologists have been saying for decades: the Nestlé operation is detrimental to the health and vibrancy of our public lands and should be discontinued,” said Miranda Fox, Campaigns Manager at The Story of Stuff Project. “We want to ensure that Strawberry Creek and its ecosystem are properly managed for generations to come.”

“This agreement stops Nestlé and the Forest Service from relying on a permit that expired 30-years ago, but Strawberry Creek still desperately needs protection,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The real tragedy is that Nestlé is sucking the creek dry to bottle water for profit, dooming plants and wildlife that have relied on it for tens of thousands of years. We’ll keep fighting to protect Strawberry Creek and our forests from commercial exploitation.”

When the Forest Service makes its decision about Nestlé’s new permit, the groups say, the agency should deny the permit in order to safeguard the public land, water, plants and animals of the San Bernardino National Forest.

“While we are glad to have slayed Nestlé’s ‘zombie’ permit, we fear that the Forest Service’s action will ultimately do little to protect this national forest — owned collectively by all Americans — from continued exploitation by Nestlé, one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the world,” explained Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the California-based Courage Campaign Institute.”If the Forest Service issues a new permit that again prioritizes Nestlé’s obscene profits over ensuring sufficient water remains to protect this fragile ecosystem — that will NOT be a viable solution. This fight will be far from over.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 The Story of Stuff Project, a California-based nonprofit organization, (www.storyofstuff.org) facilitates a global online community of more than 1 million members working to transform the way we make, use and throw away Stuff.

 CourageCampaign.org fights for a more progressive California and country. We are an online community powered by more than 1.4 million members.

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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