Malibu Beaches Among Cleanest in County

Malibu’s Beach Report Card shows an obvious improvement in water quality over time, while bacteria counts at nearby Santa Monica Pier remain high.

It has not always been the case, but for two years in a row now Malibu beaches are getting good to excellent report cards from Heal the Bay. The Santa Monica based nonprofit organization just issued its 2018 report on water quality and, once again, Malibu has made the honor roll.

“The city of Malibu has 21 miles of scenic California coastline, and we do everything possible to keep our world-famous beaches clean, healthy and safe for our community and visitors to enjoy,” said Mayor Rick Mullen in a statement provided by the city. “From our water quality monitoring and stormwater treatment programs to our bans on single-use straws, utensils, bags, and polystyrene foam, we are proud to be strong guardians of our marine environment.”

With a look at some of Malibu’s most popular beaches, Paradise Cove stands out with a grade A for three years in a row. Although a slight drop from 2014 and 2015 when Paradise Cove at Ramirez Creek was rated A-plus, it is still a huge improvement from only 10 years ago when the popular beach spot was given a grade F in water quality.

Malibu’s calling card Surfrider Beach received its fourth straight year with an A. Nearby Malibu Pier fared even better with an A-plus rating. Just seven years ago, Malibu Pier beach got an F in water quality, which puts surfers and beachgoers at high risk for bacteria contamination.

Another standout in Malibu is Escondido State Beach at Escondido Creek. It scored its third A plus in as many years—also a big turnaround since its F rating in 2012.

Dan Blocker County Beach, although barely accessible despite a parking lot addition, has been rated A plus for three years straight as well. It had a grade F only a decade ago.

“Clean water is a top priority for the City of Malibu. It’s great to see Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card validate all of the work that’s gone into the North Santa Monica Bay Coastal Watersheds Enhanced Watershed Management Program to protect beachgoers and coastal ecosystems throughout Malibu,” according to Casey Zweig, Environmental Programs Coordinator for the City of Malibu.

Malibu’s many recent water quality improvement projects include the Civic Center stormwater treatment facility, Legacy Park and Las Flores Creek restoration. The city also cites its public information programs such as the “Keep it Clean Malibu” campaign and the Clean Bay Certified restaurant program as just two examples of its partnerships with businesses in addressing pollution prevention.

Heal the Bay noted that millions of dollars have been spent on sewer improvements that include sanitary sewer inspections and repairs. Storm drain improvements that help to prevent debris and other waste from entering the ocean along with education about pollution could be contributing factors into the strides made in improving conditions. Malibu’s own wastewater treatment at Legacy Park factors in locally.

Heal the Bay yearly lists what it terms its “Beach Bummers” and, unfortunately, the Santa Monica Pier beach made the top-10 list. Topanga Beach—although not on the top 10—also figured prominently as a “Beach Bummer” with an especially dirty water report.

The report—in its 25th year—monitors area beaches in dry and wet weather. After any rain event greater than 0.10 inches, water samples are analyzed for contaminants and bacteria that get flushed through our streets and gutters into storm drains that empty into the Santa Monica Bay and beyond. Typically, higher amounts of trash, fertilizer, pet waste, metals and automotive fluids are detected from urban waterways the three days following a rain. This untreated runoff drains directly into the ocean and results in elevated bacteria levels that often keep surfers and others away who don’t want to be exposed to human and animal waste. 

Less rainfall in 2018 could be a factor for the higher grades issued this year with excellent marks for some beaches. The better the grade, the lower the risk of illness to those who enjoy the ocean.