It’s safe to go in the water at Bay Area beaches during the summer, according to the Annual Beach Report Card released today. But during wet weather, sewage spills are still a threat to surfers, swimmers and other recreationists.
The report card, issued by our partners at Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, assigns a grade of A to F to beaches along the West Coast for water quality. Better grades indicate a lower risk of illness for people who go in the water. Over the past year, 98% of the Bay Area's ocean beaches and 88% of Bay beaches earned a grade of A or B.
The dry summer season is safe for beachgoers because the biggest health threats are caused by wet-weather sewage spills. When large amounts of rain enter crumbling Bay Area sewer pipes, local sewer systems spill raw and undertreated sewage into the Bay. Sewage is a particular concern for beachgoers, because it contains bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Coming into contact with water contaminated with sewage can cause persistent skin infections and painful stomach disorders.
Other kinds of pollution are also carried into local waters by rain. During wet winter weather, rain washes along paved surfaces, collecting trash, oil, pesticides, fertilizers, industrial chemicals and household chemicals. It all gets carried into creeks, sloughs and storm drains that empty into the Bay and ocean.
Baykeeper works in a number of ways to reduce the health risks for Bay recreationists. Two of our major campaigns focus on ending leading sources of rainy-season contamination of the Bay: our Sick of Sewage campaign, which is making progress reining in sewage spills, and our just-launched Bay-Safe Industry campaign, aimed at controlling toxic industrial storm water pollution in the Bay.
You can read Heal the Bay's full Beach Report Card online at http://www.healthebay.org.