Funds approved for monitoring beaches’ water quality

Funds approved for monitoring beaches’ water quality
Water-quality monitoring will continue at beaches through at least September due to the San Diego Board of Supervisors approving funds for the program. File photo

COAST CITIES — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved $324,000 for a program that gauges whether local waters are too polluted to swim in. 

Currently, the county collects and analyzes 20 samples each week at 15 different sites along San Diego’s coastline. Water samples detect disease-causing pathogens or microbes at places like Torrey Pines State Beach and the San Elijo Lagoon.

The tests take 24 hours to analyze. With the help of the nonprofit San Diego Coastkeeper, results are put online for residents to check before going in the water. If high levels of pathogens are detected, the county also posts advisory or closure signs at any affected beaches.

The program received the funds from the state for a contract that began last July and runs through September of this year. According to the Board of Supervisors’ staff report, the contract wasn’t voted on sooner because funding was still being sorted out.

Although the contract was technically just approved, the program has operated as normal since July, according to Mark McPherson, chief of the Department of Environmental Health’s Land and Water Quality Division.

“We were told to continue our work and that we’d be reimbursed,” McPherson said.

Of the $324,000 in state funding, $24,000 goes toward fall and winter monitoring, and $300,000 covers summer and spring monitoring, according the staff report.

While fewer people are at the beaches in the fall and winter, advisories and closures are more common during this period due to increased urban runoff and untreated sewage from rainfall.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger axed funding for water-quality monitoring at beaches in 2008 due to the state budget crisis. Temporary funding was obtained from various sources for several years. More than a year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown restored funding by giving the California Resources Control Board the authority to provide up to $1.8 million for beach testing statewide

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