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Report: Testing down on Calif. beach waters

August 30, 2010 12:56:56 AM PDT
Testing for bacteria in California oceans has dropped to its lowest level since the tests became mandatory more than a decade ago and scientists fear it could lead to more people getting sick, according to a Los Angeles Times report. The number of beach closures due to pollution has decreased by 74 percent over the past five years. But in the same time, the number of annual tests has dropped nearly 50 percent, and some beaches are going untested for months at a time.

"People who swim at the beach are far more likely toswim at their own risk," said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, which focuses on Santa Monica Bay and surrounding Southern California coastal waters. "It's important that they brought this out to the public."

There is no data that shows more people are getting sick as a result of decreased testing, but many find it alarming that people could be swimming and not know the water is contaminated.

"I assumed that it's okay," said Simi Valley resident Jennie Hammond, who was with her young daughter in Santa Monica on Monday. "If it wasn't, it would be closed or you'd see more warnings, I guess."

"Why else would you go to the beach if not to accept the water?" said Hector Miranda of Santa Monica. "That's our primary reason for being out here. If they're not testing, it's like they're not taking care of us or watching out for us."

The State Water Board is investigating the report.

"Counties, like the state, have faced genuine budget problems in the last few years," it said in a statement Monday. "We're looking at alternative funding."

Testing the water weekly during the summer became California law in 1999, but only if the program is funded.

"We need a sustainable funding source for beach monitoring in the state of California," Gold said. "This sort of year by year, to scrounge together enough money to do some monitoring just isn't enough to protect public health."

Gold said our ocean's water quality has improved because of the state's clean beach initiative.


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