Coronado Beaches Make the Grade

North Beach gets "A"-OKed by Heal the Bay.

Beachgoers can wade in the water with confidence this summer thanks to all five of Coronado’s beaches earning A pluses during dry weather last year, according to the 21st annual Beach Report Card,which was released this week by environmental group Heal the Bay.

Heal the Bay analysts assign letter grades (A-F) to 47 beaches along the San Diego coast. Things like levels of weekly bacterial pollution are monitored year-round during dry weather and then graded on a scale.

Coronado’s beaches, which include North Beach, NASNI beach, Silver Strand and stretches of beach along Avenue del Sol and Loma Avenue, all received an A+ for the dry-weather season. The beach along Avenue del Sol and Silver Strand both received B grades during the wet-weather season. The remaining beaches were not graded for the wet-weather season.

Some 96 percent of San Diego County sites received dry-weather A grades in the report. The good grades for dry weather in 2010-11 are well above the county’s seven-year average, in which 85 percent of beaches monitored in dry weather received A grades, Heal the Bay said in a press release.

The Beach Report Card is a comprehensive evaluation of coastal water quality based on daily and weekly samples taken from sites along the entire coast of California, according to a Heal the Bay press release. A poor grade indicates a higher risk of contracting illnesses—such as the stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes—than at cleaner beaches. You can check updated grades for our local beaches, as well as others around the county, each week at beachreportcard.org.   

Unfortunately for the county, San Diego also suffered numerous beach closures due to a series of troubling sewage spills last December, the largest volume of spills reported statewide during the study period, Heal the Bay said in a press release.

Eight million gallons of total sewage spills last year, at nine beaches, were responsible for the numerous beach closures. The spills were linked to heavy storm damage, such as broken pipes, resulting in sewage system malfunctions. The sewage spilled in San Diego County this past year was greater than the sewage volume spilled in the rest of the state’s coastal counties combined, according to Heal the Bay.

Water quality in the Imperial Beach area continues to be compromised by sewage-contaminated plumes moving north from the Tijuana Estuary. And last year, Vacation Isle North Cove Beach in Mission Bay held the ninth spot on the worst beaches list, due to its enclosed location that provides poor water flow.

This year, however, no San Diego beaches made Heal the Bay’s statewide Top 10 Beach Bummer List, which ranks the most polluted sites in California. In fact, 20 beaches in the county were placed on Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll, meaning they scored perfect A+ grades by not exceeding bacterial count in year-round dry weather, including all of Coronado’s beaches.

Unfortunately, the public health is at risk for next year, as there is no secured state funding for ongoing testing of ocean water quality in 2012. If the state’s budget does not secure funding, over half of the beach monitoring will stop. Heal the Bay is working with state and local governments to ensure that ongoing funding is secured.

“San Diego continues to record excellent water during dry weather,” said Kirsten James, Heal the Bay’s director of water quality. “But it is critical that our state decision makers find a sustainable source of funding to make sure that continued testing takes place and the public be informed before heading to the beach.”

According to Heal the Bay, most California beaches had very good to excellent water quality this past year during year-round dry weather. Eighty-eight percent of the locations received A and B grades. That marks a two percent dip from the previous report.