More germ-filled soups where beach days should be, study finds

Santa Monica beach
Santa Monica beach
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High bacteria levels closed beaches less last year than the year before. But the new beach water quality report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says there are still plenty of days when the local surf is a germ-filled soup. KPCC's Molly Peterson reports.

The NRDC analyzed water samples collected by the state at California beaches. It found that 10 percent of the samples tested for higher levels of bacteria than rules permit. The samples from Los Angeles County beaches doubled that. About 20 percent violated standards for fecal coliform.

Some of the usual suspects topped the polluted charts: Cabrillo, Santa Monica at the pier, multiple parts of Doheny Beach in Dana Point, and Paradise Cove in Malibu. Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Bolsa Chica State Park had low levels of bacterial contamination.

NRDC researchers attributes about 9 percent of pollution to sewage and a smaller part to runoff. But it says there's more work to be done identifying the source of about 80 percent of beach-closing bacteria.

Even with water sample violations up, California logged fewer beach-closing or advisory days in 2008 – about 4,100 total. But the Natural Resources Defense Council says that's because there are fewer county resources available for monitoring or responding to sewage spills.