Heal the Bay released their list of the ten dirtiest, nastiest, most polluted beaches in all of California recently, which, sadly, went mostly unnoticed until The NY Times made it a story on their homepage. Some notoriously dirty beaches were not on the list, so we’re reaching out to Heal the Bay to get a handle on why that might be and how they conducted their study.

Perusing the list, many of the usual suspects appear. Bucolic and forested (but also full of pulp mills and cattle) Humboldt County (site of the first ever Surfrider battle--did you know that?) is a repeat offender and boasts the worst beach in terms of pollution. Cowell’s, in Santa Cruz, has long made the list of most polluted beaches (though there are grumbling that that’s partially because the samples are taken beneath the boardwalk, home to thousands of roosting and pooping birds, but far, far away from the surf zone).

But Imperial Beach, in San Diego County? Repeatedly closed to swimmers because of dangerous bacteria levels? And it isn’t here? This seems…odd?

The study reflects that these are the worst beaches during big periods of rain runoff, so it’s possible beaches that are normally heavily polluted don’t fare much worse during the rainy season, and that the ten beaches on this list are uniquely positioned to basically flush the state’s toilets during winter storms.

Anyway, here is the list, from worst to least worst:

  1. Clam Beach, Humboldt County
  2. San Clemente Pier, Orange County
  3. Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz County
  4. Lakeshore Park, San Mateo County
  5. La Jolla Cove, San Diego County
  6. Santa Monica Pier, L.A. County
  7. Capitola, Santa Cruz County
  8. Luffenholtz Beach, Humboldt County
  9. Mother’s Beach, L.A. County
  10. Monarch Beach, Orange County