Two Malibu beaches rank among top 51 on water-quality report

Las Tunas, Nicholas sparkle on Beach Honor Roll, but Malibu creek rates poorly on River Report Card

Malibu has received both good and bad news for its 32nd Heal the Bay Annual Beach Report Card and their 3rd annual River Report Card. Las Tunas County Beach and Nicholas Beach were two of just six Los Angeles County beaches that made the honor roll among the top 51 beaches.

The beach report graded more than 700 beaches and logged clean water-quality marks between April and October of 2021. The Beach Honor Roll List of beaches along the California coast has grown from 35 beaches in last year’s report to the current 51 beaches. 

Heal the Bay President and CEO Tracy Quinn acknowledged Malibu for its continued success of keeping its beaches clean. 

“Keeping with the trend of the last few years, most Los Angeles County Honor Roll beaches were located among the Palos Verdes peninsula or in the Malibu area,” Quinn said.

The River Report Card inspects the water quality of 35 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, Malibu did not have similar results to the Beach Report Card. Las Virgenes Creek was among the 10 worst freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County. The creek in Malibu Creek State Park sits ninth on the freshwater fail list. Located in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains at the intersection of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway in Calabasas, 696-acre Las Virgenes View Park is a joint project of the City of Calabasas, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The public is allowed to access and enjoy the river in designated areas to walk, fish, and use non-motorized and steerable boats such as kayaks. 

The river report showed that 59 percent of the grades across LA County showed low risk of illness, 17 percent showed moderate risk of illness and 24 percent of high risk of illness.

Overall, the beach report found that California beaches had excellent water quality in summer 2021. The report found that 94 percent of beaches assessed by Heal the Bay had received either an A or B grade. This grade is on par with the five-year average.

The report card results were announced at a press conference at The Santa Monica Pier on June 22. 

Quinn said California’s marine ecosystems are being threatened by the climate crisis and other pollution sources and solutions are needed to keep beaches and rivers safe for the public.

“It is wonderful news that most beaches in California have good water quality for swimming, but there are areas with poor water quality that need improvement and infrastructure upgrades,” Quinn said. “We expect people to increasingly seek out ocean shorelines and freshwater swimming holes to cool off as temperatures rise, so safe, clean, and healthy water is needed now more than ever.”

Nicholas Beach was one of the two beaches in Malibu that made the honor roll among the top 51 beaches in the Los Angeles County. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Heal the Bay staff scientist Luke Ginger said freshwater recreation areas must see more maintenance to ensure public safety.

“To protect public health in these valuable recreation areas, government agencies must increase water quality monitoring while improving water quality at these sites,” Ginger said. “We also need legislation that will extend more health protections to freshwater recreation areas.”

Neighboring beach communities also made both the best and the worst lists in the beach report. 

Venice Beach joined the two Malibu beaches among the top six cleanest beaches in Los Angeles County. 

However, The Santa Monica Pier made the report’s Beach Bummer List which lists the top 10 most polluted beaches in California based on levels of harmful bacteria. The Santa Monica Pier was ranked the fourth worst beach in the state. 

This beach has returned to the Beach Bummer list for the first time since 2018. 

Quinn said that although many projects have been implemented to improve water quality at the pier, she is saddened to see the beach among the most polluted once again.

In past years, Heal the Bay has explained that water quality in both rivers and beaches does enter high-risk water quality following a rain event, but this year’s report card acknowledged that this year’s results were better in part because of the lack of rain in coastal counties in California. 

The report says that coastal communities experienced 24 percent less rainfall in 2021. 

It was reported that only 64 percent of beaches remained in good to excellent water conditions following rainfall, which is slightly better than average, yet still concerning to the organization.

Ginger offered some tips to the public who look to visit beaches or rivers this summer. 

He said swimmers and visitors getting in water should continue to check the beach and river reports on the Heal the Bay website, swim at least 100 yards away from storm drains, wait at least three days after a rainstorm before entering water, and get vaccinated and follow all pandemic guidelines.

To see daily summer predictions for 25 beaches in California, visit beachreportcard.org. The Beach Report Card and River Report Card programs are essential tools for keeping water users safe.

Nicholas Beach was one of the two beaches in Malibu that made the honor roll among the top 51 beaches in the Los Angeles County. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

“Our report cards are only useful for individuals who have access to safe, healthy, and clean water recreation areas,” the report says. “Communities who are primarily Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian, and people of color experience many barriers to accessing water recreation spaces and outdoor activities. These barriers include socioeconomic , a disproportionate burden of pollution, the lack of inclusiveness in water recreation opportunities, and the threat of racism in outdoor spaces, among many other systemic issues.”

“We believe it is an inherent right for everyone to have access to water recreation, and therefore, we need to reduce and remove barriers to these opportunities and spaces,” the report continues. “Through this work, we will amplify what ‘safe, healthy, and clean access to water recreation’ means in the communities where it is needed the most.”

Malibu sign on PCH. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

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