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San Diego Beaches Test Poorly After Wet Weather

San Diego County beaches scored well on water quality, at least during dry weather, on a report released Wednesday by an environmental group.

Heal the Bay's 2010 Beach Report Card assigns A-to-F letter grades to 450 beaches throughout California.

Kirsten James with Heal the Bay says 96 percent of San Diego County beaches received A grades during dry weather.

But the story changes in wet weather.

"Wet weather continues to be a problem in San Diego and throughout the state and we're seeing about 41 percent receiving C, D and F grades," said James.

The grades are based on the levels of harmful bacteria found in the water. The better the grade a beach receives, the lower the risk of illness to ocean users.

San Diego County beaches earning F's during wet weather include parts of Imperial Beach, the Silver Strand at Coronado, Ocean Beach's Dog Beach at the San Diego River outlet and Oceanside at the San Luis Rey River outlet.

The group's statewide "Beach Bummer" list of the 10 worst beaches included Vacation Isle North Cove Beach in Mission Bay.

James said North Cove Beach ranked nine due to poor circulation at the enclosed beach.

San Diego Coastkeeper and WiLDCOAST representatives said the lack of funding for beach water quality monitoring and the lack of consistent testing puts public health at risk.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors recently voted to seek alternative funding for beach water quality testing after California Governor Schwarzenegger cut state beach monitoring funds.

Heal the Bay's James says even with the county funding, the county monitored 16 fewer locations last summer than the previous year.

Clay Clifton with Coastkeeper says there are actions people in the county can do to help reduce ocean pollution.

"Reducing the use of fertilizer, pesticide, picking up after your dog and being careful what you allow to wash into the gutter can make a difference," said Clifton. "I think a lot of people think, 'It's just a tiny bit, what can it hurt?' But when a couple million people do that it becomes a lot."

Ben McCue with WiLDCOAST said the Heal the Bay report shows the four southernmost beaches in San Diego County were closed 115 days due to Tijuana River pollution.

"There have been recent advancements with two new sewage treatment plants in the city of Tijuana," said McCue. "The International Wastewater Treatment Plant will eventually be upgraded to meet clean water standards in the future, so there is hope for our South County beaches."

McCue said the improvements in Tijuana are part of an aggressive initiative called "Zero Discharge into the Tijuana River and the Pacific Ocean."

The Heal the Bay report says Los Angeles County made improvements over the past year but still has the worst overall water quality in California.


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