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Community Commentary:

Most Newport beaches ace tests on quality of water

June 04, 2008|By LESLIE DAIGLE

This past Saturday, I had the honor of attending the annual meeting of Stop Polluting Our Newport (SPON), a local organization that promotes the protection and preservation of Newport Beach’s environment.

Jack Skinner discussed bay sedimentation and Heal the Bay’s annual “Beach Report Card” at the meeting.

Heal The Bay, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit, gathers water-quality information from local agencies to assemble a report card. The latest report card presents a yearlong analysis of storm-water runoff, ocean and tributary water quality from May 2007 to April 2008.

If a beach receives a good grade, it’s assumed there is less risk of bather illness from swimming at that beach over the long term. Some maladies include swimmer’s ear, stomach flu, nasal congestion and rashes.

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The amount of “indicator bacteria” present in runoff is the most-used sign of whether the beach is safe for recreation. State law requires local officials to measure three types of indicator bacteria: total coliform, fecal coliform and Enterococcus.

This year’s report included grades for 23 of our of city’s beaches located on Newport Bay and along the coast. The data used to compile the grades are collected by the Orange County Health Care Agency and the Orange County Sanitation District.

OCHCA collects weekly samples at 31 locations in Newport Bay and analyzes them at the Back Bay Science Center. These include the 23 beaches found in the HTB report and eight others of geographical and historical significance such as Newport Boulevard Bridge, Promontory Point Channel, and the former Ski Zone in the Upper Bay. Four additional samples are collected from the creeks and major tributaries flowing into the bay (San Diego Creek, Santa Ana Delhi, Big Canyon Creek and Back Bay Drain).

In addition, the Orange County Sanitation District monitors eight coastal Newport Beach stations five times each week. All monitoring data can be found at the downloads section of the agency’s website at www.ocbeachinfo.com.

The good news is that all Newport Bay and beach sites monitored received an A or A+, except for 43rd Street, which received a B. All grades can be found in the Appendix of the Annual Report, available at www.healthebay.org.

Homework done by Newport Beach contributed to the high score. The city has installed screens on storm drains, increased our maintenance of wastewater lines, increased our cleaning of storm drain catch basins, scheduled more frequent street sweeping (including adding alleyways to our schedule), helped reduce water runoff from lawns by encouraging the use of high-tech weather-based irrigation controllers, and is currently developing bioswales to remove bacteria.

Thanks to these efforts and the ongoing commitment by SPON and other local groups to protect our environment, the annual report card reflects water quality improvements that help protect your health when you visit the beach.


LESLIE DAIGLE is a Newport Beach city councilwoman.

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