Heal the Bays annual beach report card ranked East Beach at Mission Creek 10th on its beach bummers list for California beaches in 2020-21 based on levels of potentially harmful bacteria in the ocean.
The report, released on June 29, assigns A through F letter grades for 500 beaches across the state based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution in the ocean measured by county health agencies, according to Heal the Bay.
East Beach at Mission Creek received a D as bacteria pollution flows from the Santa Barbara area into the ocean at East Beach through Mission Creek, near Stearns Wharf.
It's the first year that East Beach at Mission Creek landed on Heal the Bays beach bummers list, and the last Santa Barbara County beach to be placed on the list was Arroyo Burro (Hendry's) Beach in 2011, according to the report.
Two other Santa Barbara County beaches ranked on Heal the Bays 2020-21 honor roll. Guadalupe Dunes Beach and El Capitn State Beach were on the list of beaches that have scored perfect water quality grades year-round, according to the report.
Beaches across the county are popular year-round and used by everyone from surfers to swimmers, kayakers and paddleboarders, and people going for a walk along the shore.
The state has water quality standards for certain fecal bacteria (total coliform, fecal coliform, and enterococcus)to measure the safety of beaches for human recreation.
The indicator bacteria do not cause illness in themselves, but several studies have shown that as indicator levels increase, the rate of swimming-associated illness also increases, according to Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.
Beachgoers who come in contact with water that has elevated bacteria levels have a much higher risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes, the organization explained.
State law requires county health officials to conduct weekly bacteria sampling from April 1 to Oct. 31 at high-visitation beaches to warn the public whether water quality standards for fecal indicator bacteria are exceeded, according to Channelkeeper.
Santa Barbara County Public Healths Environmental Health Services also has an Ocean Water Monitoring Program that tests 16 beaches between the Guadalupe Dunes and Carpinteria State Beach year-round. The water quality reports are updated weekly.
Sampling efforts by Environmental Health Services and other jurisdictions have demonstrated that high levels of bacteria in creeks and ocean water are often associated with stormwater runoff, according to the county.
From the most recent Environmental Health Services report released Monday, Goleta Beach was the only county beach placed under the warning status. When a beach is under warning status, people are asked to stay at least 50 yards away from creek mouths and/or storm drains and avoid contact with creek and lagoon water at all times, according to Environmental Health Services.
The 15 other beaches that remained safe and open include Guadalupe Dunes, El Capitn State Beach, Refugio Beach, Sands Beach at Coal Oil Point, Gaviota State Beach, Jalama Beach, Summerland Beach, Leadbetter Beach, Carpinteria State Beach, Hammonds Beach, Butterfly Beach, East Beach at Sycamore Creek, East Beach at Mission Creek, Arroyo Burro Beach and Hope Ranch Beach.
People can check the most recent beach water test results on the countys Ocean Water Monitoring Program webpage at countyofsb.org/phd/oceanwatermonitoring by clicking ocean water beach status. They can also call the ocean water quality hotline at 805.681.4949 for pre-recorded weekly updates on beach water quality reports.
People can also check weekly beach water quality results on Channelkeepers swim guide, which shows the most up-to-date reports as well as the historical water quality status of the beaches.
The website also consolidates weekly water quality testing for southern Santa Barbara County beaches.
In the swim guide, almost all of the local beaches are marked green for current water quality, and many of them are marked green for their historical status, meaning the beach has metwater quality standards 95% of the time. Those beaches include Sands Beach, Hammonds Beach, Summerland Beach, Refugio Beach and El Capitn State Beach.
Eight beaches were marked yellow, meaning that they have historically met water quality standards 60% to 95% of the time. Those beaches include Goleta Beach, Hope Ranch Beach, Arroyo Burro Beach, Leadbetter Beach, East Beach at Mission Creek, East Beach at Sycamore Creek, Butterfly Beach and Carpinteria State Beach.
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