It’s safe to go in the water at most Bay Area beaches when the weather’s dry, according to the Annual Beach Report Card released today. A few Bay Area beaches have clean water even during wet weather. But at several local beaches, the water is too polluted to go in, in both wet weather and dry.
The report card, issued by Baykeeper’s partner, 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, almost all Bay Area beaches earned a grade of A or B during summer dry weather, and most also had an A or B during dry winter weather. However, during wet winter weather, only about half of Bay Area beaches got an A or B, and many got an F.
San Francisco Bay beaches that got an A or A+ in both dry and wet weather include Alameda Point North and South, some parts of Crown Beach in Alameda, and North Keller Beach in Point Richmond. Several coastal beaches also got a year-round A or A+, including China Beach in San Francisco and San Gregorio State Beach in San Mateo County.
On the other hand, the water quality at Candlestick Point Sunnydale Cove in San Francisco is so bad that it landed on the Beach Bummer list of ten most polluted beaches in California.
The grades at many Bay Area beaches are lower in wet weather because of 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 swimmers, surfers, and 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.
Baykeeper is working to reduce this threat with our Sick of Sewage Campaign. We have successfully secured legally-binding agreements to upgrade sewage infrastructure in 20 cities across the Bay Area, leading to significant progress in cleanup of sewage contamination of the Bay.
Other kinds of pollution are also carried into local waters by rain. 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 is working to protect the Bay from this runoff pollution. Currently we are suing the city of San Jose for failing to keep trash, fecal bacteria, and other pollution from washing into Bay tributaries. San Jose has some of the highest levels of polluted storm water runoff of any city in the Bay Area.
You can read Heal the Bay's full Beach Report Card online here.
Photo by Robb Most