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San Diego Beaches Claim Spots On Heal The Bay’s Honor Roll For Ocean Water Quality

Seawalls in Solana Beach, January 12th 2016

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Seawalls in Solana Beach, January 12th 2016

San Diego County beaches earned nearly one-fourth of the spots on Heal the Bay's annual Honor Roll for excellent year-round water quality, according to the environmental group report released Tuesday.

According to Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, 42 out of more than 500 beaches across the state earned spots on the Honor Roll, which is reserved for beaches that score grades of A+ for water quality during all seasons and weather conditions.

Of those 42 beaches, 20 are in Orange County, the most for any county in the state. San Diego County has 10 beaches on the list, including five in Carlsbad. Los Angeles County has three — Palos Verdes Cove, Palos Verdes Long Point and Redondo State Beach at Topaz Street.

According to Heal the Bay's annual Beach Report Card, Orange County's 20 entries on the list is double the number it had last year, when 33 beaches statewide made the grade. Three of Orange County's beaches on the list were also on the list last year — Dana Point Harbor Youth Dock, Dana Strands Beach and San Clemente at Avenida Calafia.

But the news wasn't all glowing for Orange County in the report. Two O.C. beaches landed on Heal the Bay's "Beach Bummers" list of the most polluted water. Poche Beach landed on the list for the fifth time, while the San Clemente Pier made the list for the second straight year.

San Diego County lone entry on the list was Mission Bay's Vacation Isle North Cove.

Los Angeles County had one beach on the "Bummers" list — Topanga Beach, which has earned the distinction regularly over the years.

According to Heal the Bay, San Diego County beaches received excellent grades during dry months, but the ratings were still lower than the five- year average. The county received good to above-average grades during wet weather, with 82% of beaches receiving grades of A or B.

Despite the generally high marks, Heal the Bay raised concerns about conditions at Trestles Beach, noting that sewage spills last year sent roughly 90,000 of sewage cascading to the beach.

"Unfortunately, the beach was never closed, and county health officials do not monitor water quality at this popular beach," according to the report. "This is highly alarming, and we urge San Diego County to begin monitoring Trestles and develop a sewage spill protocol for spills that occur upstream from a beach."

Although the report is based on water-quality samples from 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, it includes a discussion of potential risks, noting that "COVID-19 has been detected in sewage, indicating that fecal matter from infected individuals can contain the virus."

"As we have shown in this report, millions of gallons of raw sewage is spilled into the ocean every year," according to the report. "We do not know how long the virus survives in sewage or in the ocean, and we do not know if someone can contract COVID-19 from ocean water. Experts have stated that the transmission risk in ocean water is likely very low because the virus mainly spreads through person-to-person contact."

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