Budget cuts lead to drop in beach-water testing

SANTA MONICA — Budget cuts led to a dramatic drop in the amount of Southern California beach-water testing last year, according to a report released by an environmental organization today.

"Less testing may lead to fewer pollution warnings, but it doesn't make our beaches any cleaner,'' said Noah Garrison, attorney for the National Resources Defense Council's Water Program. "In order to keep our beaches safe for swimmers and surfers, it's critical that we test for pollution and also
stop it at its source.''

According to the group's 20th annual beach water report, 4,500 fewer samples were collected in 2009 than the previous year in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Only one-third as many samples were collected at Santa Monica Beach at the Santa Monica Pier, at Surfrider Beach in Malibu and at Cabrillo Beach in 2009, compared to 2008, the report found.

Overall, beach testing dropped by 24 percent between 2008 and 2009 in Southern California, the report found. The drop was cited as a major factor in the statewide drop in beach closure and health-advisory days across the state last year, according to the report.

The NRDC found that there were 2,904 closure and advisory days in the state last year, and 18,682 nationwide. The California total was a 30 percent drop from 2008. The report noted that Northern California beaches saw a dramatic increase in closure and advisory days, but Southern California had a dramatic drop -- due largely to the lack of testing and drier-than-usual weather.

Beaches in Los Angeles County had the highest percentage of days exceeding state bacteria-level standards, at 16 percent, followed by Orange and Santa Barbara counties with 8 percent, San Diego with 6 percent and San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties at 5 percent.

According to the report, the Southern California beaches with the highest percentages of days exceeding bacteria standards were Avalon Beach north of GP Pier (82 percent); Poche County Beach in Orange County (63 percent); Avalon Beach near the Busy B Cafe (52 percent); Santa Monica State
Beach at the pier (46 percent); Cabrillo Beach (45 percent); Surfrider Beach (45 percent), Avalon Beach south of GP Pier (44 percent); and Newport Bay-Newport Boulevard Bridge (43 percent).

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