The area near the Pismo Beach Pier had the distinct honor of being named one of California's 10 most polluted beaches in 2016. But one of the most popular beaches in San Luis Obispo County has turned it around in the years since then.
Pismo Beach Pier received all “A's,” according to an annual water-quality report card released Thursday by environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay.
The water samples analyzed were broken into three periods from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018: summer dry season (April-October), winter dry season (November-March) and before or during a rain storm. The samples taken 40 feet south of the pier got an “A” for the summer period, an “A” for the winter and period and an “A+” for wet weather. Last year, Pismo Beach Pier received a “B” grade after getting slapped with a “D” in 2015-16.
The report assigns A-to-F water-quality grades for more than 400 beaches up and down the California coast based on levels of harmful bacteria. The better the grade a beach receives, the lower the risk of illness. Water samples were analyzed for three fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) that indicate pollution from numerous sources, including human and animal waste.
Of the seven sites where water was sampled around Pismo Beach, only one received lower than an “A” based on year-round water quality sampling conducted by county health agencies, sanitation departments and dischargers, according to Heal the Bay. Samples taken near Wadsworth Street during or three days after a rainfall received a “C” grade.
Pismo Beach Public Works Director Ben Fine said Thursday the grade is a product of ongoing efforts to improve water quality at the city’s beaches.
“When you see something like an (A+ water quality grade), it is validating,” Fine said. “It lets you know that the work is paying off.”
Fine said projects like blocking the underside of the pier to prevent pigeon roosting and installing a cycle storm drain interceptor to catch trash in storm drains have had a big impact and helped improve water quality.
Elsewhere in SLO County, Morro Bay City Beach and the beach at Pico Avenue in San Simeon received top grades. Both locations received overall A+ grades and earned a spot on the 2017-18 Honor Roll thanks to exceptional weekly grades for the past year.
Overall, summer dry grades were “excellent” in SLO County with 100 percent A or B grades. Winter dry A or B grades were 6 percent lower than the five-year average at 89 percent.
“Unlike most counties, San Luis Obispo County had great wet weather grades, with 95 percent A or B's,” the report states.
Sewage spills were also down last year. Three sewage spills occurred in SLO County in 2017-18, compared to 10 last year. More than 3,200 gallons of sewage reportedly reached ocean water in SLO County, though none of the spills were considered major and there were no health warnings or beach closures issued.
According to Heal the Bay, a return to drought-like conditions in the state helped improve ocean water quality due to a lack of bacteria-laced runoff that comes with heavy rainfall. A record 37 beaches in California made the Heal the Bay Honor Roll this year including Sands Beach in Isla Vista and Silver Strand in Oxnard.
Northern California beaches had some of the worst water quality in the state with seven beaches making Heal the Bay’s “Top 10 Beach Bummers” list. They included Lakeshore Park at Marina Lagoon in San Mateo and Roosevelt Beach in Half Moon Bay.
Top 10 Most Polluted Beaches in California
1. Poche Beach at ocean outlet, San Clemente
2. Lakeshore Park at Marina Lagoon, San Mateo
3. Linda Mar Beach at San Pedro Creek, Pacifica
4. Clam Beach County Park near Strawberry Creek, McKinleyville
5. Roosevelt Beach, south of the parking lot, Half Moon Bay
6. Luffenholtz Beach near Luffenholtz Creek, Trinidad
7. Santa Monica Municipal Pier, Santa Monica
8. Cowell Beach, west of the wharf, Santa Cruz
9. Cabrillo Beach, harborside, San Pedro
10. Surfer’s Beach, south end of riprap, Half Moon Bay