SF, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz home to bacteria-ridden beaches

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(KRON/BCN) — Three of California’s most bacteria-laden beaches are located here in the Bay Area.

According to a beach report card, San Francisco’s Sunnydale Cove near Candlestick Point, San Mateo’s Marina Lagoon and Santa Cruz’s Cowell Beach all made the list.

The beach report, by environmental non-profit organization Heal the Bay, monitored bacterial pollution at 443 California beaches that are prime locations for activities like swimming and surfing.

According to the report dry weather reduces the amount of pollution funneled into the ocean, improving water quality at beaches statewide.

During the wet periods, bacterial pollutants make their way into the water and remain there for an extended period of time.

This year, Northern California is home to five of the state’s 10 most polluted beaches.

The report also found bacteria at Monterey County’s Stillwater Cove and Humboldt County’s Clam Beach County Park.

Northern California beaches that face the ocean received higher grades overall than those beaches on the bayside, largely because of ocean currents that sweep away bacteria.

Bacterial pollution can cause ear infections, stomach flu, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes.

Heal the Bay says scientists are working to determine the source of the bacteria at these various beaches, but so far there is no cause.

Ian Wren, a staff scientist at the environmental non-profit organization, San Francisco Baykeeper, said the failures at the Bay Area beaches could largely be attributed to sewer infrastructure failure and storm water runoff.

He said San Francisco, like many other cities on the bay, dumps its sewage into the Bay, adding bacteria to the bay water.

Heal the Bay says these dirty beaches should provoke changes to land use policies. According to Heal the Bay, if water that is used on land were properly captured and reused, harmful pollutants could be kept out of the ocean and bays.

Heal the Bay is advocating for policies that ensure new building developments have low environmental impacts and that the projects are required to capture, cleanse and reuse stormwater rather than dumping it into the sewer system, which is flushed out into waterways.

The organization said the enduring drought is forcing policymakers show a willingness to prioritize water-recycling policies.

Heal the Bay says San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener’s ordinance that passed this week requiring newly constructed, large developments to have onsite water reuse systems, is a progressive step in the right direction, but policymakers across the state should also consider passing legislation requiring smaller buildings and existing buildings to recycle and clean their used water.

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