Beach Bummers: 2 Bay Area beaches ranked dirtiest in California

FOSTER CITY, Calif. (KRON) — A San Mateo County beach was declared California’s second-worst “Beach Bummer” by scientists who study ocean water quality for hundreds of beaches.

Heal the Bay released its annual Beach Report Card based off water samples collected from beaches as far south as Baja California, Mexico, all the way up to Northern California, in 2021 and 2022.

The report card includes the Top-10 biggest “Beach Bummers,” polluted beaches plagued by harmful levels of bacteria in the ocean.

Erckenbrack Park in Foster City had the lowest water quality in the San Francisco Bay Area and it landed in the #2 spot for “Beach Bummers.” Nearby Marlin Park was ranked #3 on the list.

2022 Beach Bummers

1. Playa Blanca (Baja California, Mexico)2. Erckenbrack Park (San Mateo County)3. Marlin Park (San Mateo County)4. Santa Monica Pier (Los Angeles County)5. Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, at lifeguard tower (Los Angeles County)6. Moonstone County Park (Humboldt County)7. Newport Bay, Vaughn’s Launch (Orange County)8. Lakeshore Park (San Mateo County)9. Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, between lifeguard tower and boat dock (Los Angeles County)10. Tijuana Slough, North of Tijuana River Mouth (San Diego County)

Heal the Bay’s scientists said Erckenbrack Park’s horrible water quality is created by stagnant water.

“San Mateo County has produced more Beach Bummers than any other county in recent years. Erckenbrack Park is a Beach Bummer for a third-straight year; Marlin Park is making its second consecutive appearance; and Lakeshore Park has been a Beach Bummer five times in the last 10 years. These beaches are enclosed in an engineered patchwork of channels that do not allow much water circulation so pollution is not easily flushed away from the beaches,” HTB wrote.

Birds are also to blame, according to Foster City officials. Flocks of Canada geese frequently hang out in Erckenbrack Park and the city is currently considering killing off some of the geese.


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Foster City officials told KRON4 that goose droppings pose potential health risks to both residents and visitors who use parks and waterways.

“Lagoon water quality testing regularly shows high E.coli levels partly attributed to goose droppings among other factors,” city officials wrote. Non-lethal methods such as fogging, dog hazing and strobe lights have not helped with shooing away the stubborn birds.

The only beach dirtier than Erckenbrack Park was Playa Blanca near Tijuana, Mexico, according to HTB.

“This beach and others in the area are impacted by sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana metropolitan area, which has insufficient and, in some places, nonexistent sewage infrastructure. This beach may also receive influxes of sewage contamination from the Punta Bandera treatment plant outfall north of the beach,” HTB wrote.

Most California beaches had excellent water quality according to the Beach Report Card, which assigned “A-to-F” letter grades to 500 beaches.

Still, Heal the Bay remains concerned about ocean water quality. People who come in contact with polluted water with a C grade or lower can contract illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes. 

“A day at the beach and the river shouldn’t make anyone sick,” said Tracy Quinn, president of Heal the Bay. “It is wonderful news that most beaches in California have good water quality for swimming. But there are areas with poor water quality that need improvement and infrastructure upgrades. We expect people to increasingly seek out ocean shorelines and freshwater swimming holes to cool off as temperatures rise.”

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