Here in Southern California, we practically live at the beach.  Heck, it’s February 21 and there’s a high of 72 today!

So imagine Carson’s surprise when he did a little bit of research on the water quality near his hometown of Santa Monica and found out that there’s a handful of beaches that have been deemed unsafe.

Heal The Bay, a non-profit environmental organization, publishes weekly grades for dozens of SoCal’s most popular beaches.

The A-F system is based on levels of bacterial pollution in the water.

Carson spoke with Kirsten James, Heal The Bay’s Science and Policy Director to get to the bottom of this beach grading situation:

“We publish these grades to help educate the surfers and the beachgoers and help them make the best decision,” James explained.

“But definitely as the grades get lower, you see those D and F beaches,” she continued. “You really need to take a second thought before getting in the water and just assess what the risk is because you could get sick.”

One of those F beaches includes the Santa Monica pier, arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations in Los Angeles.

“The Santa Monica Pier has been chronically polluted, but the good news is that Santa Monica is being proactive about it and they’ve put in different infrastructure to improve that. They’re still tweaking it a bit, so we’re hopeful that they’ll improve again, but we have seen an increase in improvement over time.”

What’s causing the pollution? James says storm drains are a big part of the problem.

“In general, we tell swimmers to stay away from any flowing storm drains because as you can imagine, all that pollution that’s inland that gets picked up during a storm, you know, when you’re watering your grass, rolls down to the beach.”

The good news is that often 100-200 yards away, there’s a perfectly safe beach to enjoy. Santa Monica at Montana Avenue scored an A+ in Heal The Bay’s most recent report card.

You can take a look at the grades for yourself by downloading Heal The Bay’s free app or visiting

In the future, Heal The Bay hopes to have the grades posted at every lifeguard station, just like you would see at a restaurant.

Until that becomes a reality, the organization has also teamed up with cities and regulatory agencies governing these high-risk beaches to put a plan in action that will reduce pollution levels.

“85% of the time in the summer, you’re good to go at beaches,” James added. “But you know, you do want to be careful and check your specific beach and stay away from those flowing storm drains.”

-Sarah Carroll, 97.1 AMP Radio/Los Angeles


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