In Orange County, the survey tallied 939 advisories or closures
last year, down from 1,329 in 2003.
"It's still a large number of days where the beach is unavailable
or unsafe," said Anjali Jaiswal, a Natural Resources Defense Council
attorney who specializes in water issues.
Last year's statistics also showed marked improvements from 2002
and 2001, when Orange County placed last in the organization's
The most common culprit for beach closures or safety notices was
bacteria. According to the survey, microbes were to blame 88% of the
Newport Bay's two worst spots in the survey were 33rd Street Beach
and the beach near the intersection of Newport Boulevard and West
Coast Highway, Jaiswal said. Those beaches were in bad shape through
all of 2004.
Because of persistent bacteria-related problems, the Orange County
Health Care Agency has maintained a long-term health warning around
the 33rd Street Channel since 1997.
The agency has alerted beachgoers to problems near the Newport
Boulevard bridge since 1999.
The agency has also judged the waters at 43rd Street Beach to be
unhealthful since 1999.
On the cleaner side, Jaiswal cited Bayshore Beach and the waters
near 52nd and 53rd streets as Newport's safest. Jaiswal said the
survey counted only one bad day for Bayshore Beach and two for the
Jaiswal blamed urban runoff and the bacteria it brings for local
Environmentalists often mention runoff as a leading enemy of water
quality, and Jaiswal recommended construction projects include sand
filters and catch-basin screens to prevent polluted waters from
flowing from buildings to the beach.
"Instead of cleaning the beaches, let's clean our water," she
In 2000, the Orange County Sanitation District, started a program
to allow runoff to be subjected to the same treatment as sewage.
Currently the sewer agency accepts a maximum of 10 million gallons
of runoff each day. During rain storms, the district does not accept
runoff because too much water would overload the sewer system.
Local environmental figures said channeling water from storm
drains to the sewer system has been an effective tool against beach
Jack Skinner a Newport Beach water-quality advocate, said a
consensus has emerged in California that favors treating runoff that
In addition to treatment, Garry Brown, the executive director of
water quality group Orange County Coastkeeper said he supports giving
the public information about the problems that can stem from runoff,
and using available technologies to prevent over watering.
"We have to go up into the watershed. We have to reduce the flows
that are coming down," Brown said.