San Diego County beaches receive high markes in Heal the Bay report

SAN DIEGO - The beach water quality in San Diego County during the summer season was among the best in the state, although the Tijuana River mouth made the list of the state's most polluted beaches due to a sewage spill, according to Heal the Bay's 23rd annual Beach Report Card released Thursday.

The Santa Monica-based environmental group assigned letter grades based on levels bacterial pollutants in the water to 71 beaches along the county's coast, with 68 of those given an A for the period from last April to October -- up 3 percent from last year's report.

San Diego County's 96 percent A rating compares with 85 percent of the 441 beaches rated statewide that received the same high mark.

The water quality at the county's beaches during the dry winter months from November to March also showed gains, with 98 percent receiving A or B grades, according to Heal the Bay.

"Summer and winter swimming at San Diego beaches (have) probably never been better in recent history than now,"  Heal the Bay Urban Programs Manager James Alamillo said. "(With) the combination of low rainfall, projects implemented to control dry-weather discharges and greater public education, the county and its municipalities seemingly have runoff issues under control."

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for sewage," Alamillo said. "Once again, San Diego led all California coastal counties in the volume of sewage spilled."

No D or F grades were given to San Diego County's beaches, but the Tijuana Slough at the Tijuana River Mouth received a C grade, according to Heal the Bay.

The beach at the mouth of the Tijuana River took the 10th spot on Heal the Bay's annual "Beach Bummers List" of the 10 most polluted beaches in the state. Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island topped the list, according to the report.

Flows in the Tijuana River impacted beach water quality at Border Field State Park beach, the Tijuana River Wildlife Refuge and Imperial Beach. Dry weather flow was caused by treated effluent being discharged into the river upstream by a sewage treatment plant in Tijuana, Heal the Bay reported.

Border beaches also were impacted by untreated sewage that spilled into the Tijuana River or were discharged into the ocean just south of the U.S.-Mexico border. The spill led to 10 beach closures from the Silver Strand to the border, and the four southernmost beaches were closed for 139 days during the study's reporting period, according to Heal the Bay.

Heal the Bay placed 11 beaches in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar and Point Loma on its 35-beach Honor Roll. San Diego County had more beaches on the Honor Roll than any other county in the state, according to Heal the Bay.

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