Monterey County

Cowell Beach makes group's "Beach Bummers" list due to dirty conditions

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - An environmental organization is giving low marks to Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz because of ongoing problems with water quality.

Heal the Beach has put the iconic beach at the top of its list of this year's "Beach Bummers," an annual ranking of the state's 10 most polluted beaches.  Capitola Beach in Santa Cruz County and Monterey County's Stillwater Cove also made the list.

The list is compiled based on the organization's 2014 Beach Report Card, which looks at water quality at the state's beaches. Only 23 of the beaches monitored statewide received C to F grades during summer dry weather, when most beachgoers typically use the ocean. That's based largely on high bacteria counts.

2014 Beach Bummers

  1. Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz County
  2. Marina Lagoon, San Mateo County
  3. Marina del Rey – Mother's Beach, Los Angeles County
  4. Cabrillo Beach harborside, Los Angeles County
  5. Stillwater Cove, Monterey County
  6. Clam Beach County Park, Humboldt County
  7. Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles County
  8. Pillar Point Harbor, San Mateo County
  9. Capitola Beach –west of the jetty, Santa Cruz County
  10. Windsurfer Circle at Candlestick Point, San Francisco County

Meanwhile, engineers have been working to prevent the ongoing problems at Cowell Beach. The state Water Resources Board recently awarded the city a grant for fixing the city's storm drainage and storm runoff systems to help prevent bacterial contamination at the popular beach.

There might be one upside to the state's ongoing drought, however - during drier weather conditions there is less overall runoff, which is the main source of pollutants, such as bacteria, to the beach water. Still, Heal the Bay cautions that the resulting improved water quality could provide a false sense of long term beach water quality improvement.

The full Beach Report Card is here.

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