Popular family beach rates dirty 

Waterborne bacteria is flourishing mainly along the section of Baker Beach that’s friendliest for families.

The southern portion of the shoreline was included Wednesday in a list of California’s 10 most-polluted beaches. The annual list is compiled by Santa Monica nonprofit Heal the Bay.

Bacteria is concentrated around the mouth of Lobos Creek at the southern end of the federal shoreline, forcing its occasional closure.

During the past three months, three out of 17 water samples taken at the site exceeded California’s safety threshold for enterococcus bacteria counts, city monitoring figures show.

When samples were last taken May 19, 10 times more coliform bacteria was detected at the site than farther north along the sandy shoreline, reports show.

Swimmers exposed to the contamination risk infections, stomach problems and other ailments.

Kids and families tend to congregate near the mouth of the naturally occurring creek, which is close to a large parking lot, while the relatively pristine northern stretch is dominated by nudists.

The unclad sunbathers tend to keep families and clothes-wearing beach-goers at bay.

Furthermore, the northern parts of the beach can be accessed only by walking a half-mile along the sand, scaling a steep sand ladder or scrambling over a large rock formation that gets buffeted by waves.

A permanent sign warns sunbathers of the dangers of the creek’s water, which often accumulates in large pools on the beach before flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

The source of the contamination is not known for certain.

Because The City does not operate a sewage-discharge box nearby, it’s believed to come from seagulls or the droppings of other wildlife.

Research by San Francisco in conjunction with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was expected to have identified the species of animals responsible for the contamination.

But the laboratory that was testing the water samples was called to help with Gulf of Mexico oil spill operations, meaning the Lobos Creek culprits remain unknown, according to San Francisco Public Utilities Commission biologist Mike Kellogg.

Lobos Creek emerges above ground near 16th Avenue and Lake Street, when it becomes a milelong stream.

“It’s a little bit of natural habitat remaining in San Francisco,” Kellogg said. “It harbors raccoons, possums, skunks and rodents, and so forth.”

SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said little could be done to prevent the contamination if wildlife is found to be responsible.

jupton@sfexaminer.com


Cleanliness problems

California’s worst-polluted beaches in 2009–10:

  • Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island (Los Angeles County)
  • Cowell Beach at the Wharf (Santa Cruz County)
  • Cabrillo Beach harborside (Los Angeles County)
  • Poche Beach (Orange County)
  • Santa Monica Municipal Pier (Los Angeles County)
  • Colorado Lagoon (Los Angeles County)
  • Baker Beach at Lobos Creek (San Francisco County)
  • Capitola Beach west of the jetty (Santa Cruz County)
  • Vacation Isle North Cove Beach in Mission Bay (San Diego County)
  • Sunset Blvd. and PCH at Santa Ynez drain (Los Angeles County)

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John Upton

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