The beach near the Santa Monica Pier had a drastic improvement in water quality this past summer, according to a recently released report by Heal the Bay.

In the Santa Monica-based environmental organization’s End of Summer Beach Report Card, beaches throughout the state showed excellent water quality for the fourth consecutive summer.

Heal the Bay assigned an A-to-F letter grade to 453 beaches along the California coast in its survey, based on levels of bacterial pollution reported from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This summer, 92 percent of sites received A or B grades, which are similar results to last year.

The Beach Report Card is based on the routine monitoring of beaches by local health agencies and dischargers. Water samples are analyzed for bacteria that indicate pollution from numerous sources. Heal the Bay analyzes the data and assigns grades to each beach. The better the grade a beach receives, the lower the risk of illness to ocean users.

“We continue to see water quality improvements at California beaches,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “However, without a sustainable source of beach monitoring funding, the public health of millions of ocean users will be jeopardized.”

Los Angeles County beaches were relatively clean this summer, with 79 percent of beaches receiving an A or B grade (similar to last year), according to the report. The perennially polluted Santa Monica Pier soared to an A grade for the reporting period, which is a marked improvement from previous D and F grades. Heal the Bay officials attributed the jump primarily to a number of water quality improvement projects at the pier over the past year.

But while a majority of beaches statewide have experienced high water quality this summer, Heal the Bay officials expressed concern that state funding for routine water quality testing along California beaches may be eliminated next January due to the statewide budget crisis.

If regional ocean-testing agencies can not secure the necessary funds, they will be forced to end water quality monitoring as well as the associated warning signs and public notification systems, according to Heal the Bay. Organization officials stress that any cutbacks in testing could pose a significant health risk for the millions of beachgoers who enter California oceans each year.

Heal the Bay plans to continue working with state and local governments to ensure funding for this critical reporting program.

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