Environment

4 SLO County beaches make the honor roll for best water quality in California

Pier to pier: A day trip up the Central Coast

Explore the piers of San Luis Obispo County in this video journey from Pismo Beach to Cayucos.
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Explore the piers of San Luis Obispo County in this video journey from Pismo Beach to Cayucos.

Four San Luis Obispo County beaches have made the statewide honor roll for excellent year-round water quality, according to a report by environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay.

Overall, six well-known SLO County beaches were graded in the report, which analyzed water quality at 500 California beaches.

The report assigns A through F grades for each beach, based on water quality samples. A good grade, like an A or B, indicates a lower risk of illness and harmful bacteria. The samples are analyzed for three fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) that indicate pollution from sources including human waste.

The SLO County beaches graded in the report were Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Morro Bay City Beach, Morro Strand State Beach, Cayucos State Beach and beaches in San Simeon.

The water samples were broken into three periods from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019: summer dry season from April through October, winter dry season from November through March, and wet weather, which is any time during or three days following a rain storm.

Crowds packed Pismo Beach on Presidents Day, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to enjoy a day at the beach on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016.

One hundred percent of the beaches in SLO County received A grades during both summer and winter dry seasons. During wet weather, 95 percent of the beaches received A and B grades.

The four SLO County beaches that made the honor roll included the beach at Pico Avenue in San Simeon, Morro Bay City Beach, Cayucos downcoast of the pier and Pismo Beach at Silver Shoals Drive. To make the list, a beach has to be monitored weekly all year and receive an A+ grade for all seasons and weather conditions.

Thirty-three beaches total made the honor roll this year, which is lower than the 37 last year, likely due to higher-than-average rainfall, the report said.

The beach near the Studio Drive parking lot near Old Creek Road in Cayucos was the only beach to receive a less-than-stellar grade: It received an A+ for both summer dry and winter dry categories, but D during wet weather.

The report also noted sewage spills that occurred in SLO County in 2018.

Seven sewage spills were reported locally for a total of 59,500 gallons, according to the report. None of the beaches were reportedly impacted by the spills.

Dozens of kitesurfers took advantage of clear, sunny weather and steady wind on the beach between Morro Bay and Cayucos on Sept. 20, 2017.

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Gabby Ferreira is a breaking news and general assignment reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. A native of Houston, Texas, she was a reporter in Tucson, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Palm Springs, California, before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 2016.
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