For the second consecutive year, Los Angeles County had the worst overall beach water quality in the state, including seven of the ten lowest-rated beaches, according to Heal the Bay’s 2006-2007 Beach Report Card, released Wednesday, May 23rd.

Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental organization focusing on education, outreach, research and advocacy, assigned “A” to “F” letter grades to more than 500 California beaches in the report card based on their levels of bacterial pollution.

In the list of the top ten worst “Beach Bummers” in California — beaches that received an “F” grade for water quality — the beach at the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica ranked sixth.

The Beach Report Card is a comprehensive evaluation of coastal water quality based on daily and weekly samples gathered at beaches from Humboldt County to the Mexican border.

A poor grade means beachgoers face a higher risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes than swimmers at cleaner beaches.

The Beach Report Card is available at www.healthebay.org/.

“The public has the right to water quality information that will help them make informed decisions about where to take their families swimming,” said Mark Gold, Heal the Bay president. “The Beach Report Card is a public service, helping everyone understand which beaches they can visit without fear of getting sick.”

In Los Angeles County, the Long Beach area suffered a dramatic drop in water quality during the last year, with 22 of 25 beaches registering a “C,” “D” or “F,” a dramatic change for a city that has a history of good water quality, Gold said. As a result, the city of Long Beach was ranked as the number-one “Beach Bummer” in this year’s report.

Only 57 percent of Los Angeles County beaches scored an “A” or a “B” letter grade, compared to the statewide average of 82 percent that received A’s and B’s during dry weather.

In comparison, 86 percent of San Diego County and 90 percent of Northern California saw their beaches attain grades of “A” or “B” in this year’s report, surpassing the statewide average.

Like last year, Los Angeles County played a prominent role in this year’s “Beach Bummers” list, which exposes the ten most contaminated beaches in California.

Ranking fifth on the “Beach Bummer” list is Surfrider Beach in Malibu, considered one of the world’s most famous beaches, according to Heal the Bay.

But, statewide, water quality this season has been above average, according to Gold, due in large part to the record-low rainfall recorded in much of California. From San Luis Obispo County north to Humboldt County, over 90 percent of the northern California beaches earned an “A” grade.

“We’re happy to report that most beaches in the state continue to have safe levels of bacteria during the summer months, especially open ocean beaches,” said Gold.

“Beach water quality knows no geographic or economic bounds,” said Gold. “The Beach Report Card shows that just because you go to the beach in a multimillion-dollar neighborhood doesn’t guarantee it’s safe for swimming.”

According to the 2006-2007 report, overall water quality in dry weather continues to be good, meaning that the majority of California’s beaches are in great condition for swimming and surfing throughout the upcoming summer season.

Approximately 85 percent of the beaches monitored statewide received a grade of “A” or “B,” meaning very good to excellent water quality.

As in past years, there continues to be a great disparity between dry and wet weather, when water quality typically plummets, due to the pollution that rain flushes through the storm drain system and into the ocean.

While 74 percent of the beaches monitored in Southern California during summer dry weather received “A” grades, that number dropped to only 40 percent during wet weather, with 27 percent of the beaches monitored receiving an “F” grade.

The monitoring methodology utilized in the 2006-07 Beach Report Card is endorsed by the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Beach Water Quality Work Group.

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