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County sticks to beach water quality monitoring

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Poor water quality at San Diego beaches will get posted at the beach for another full year. The State Water Resoures Control Board agreed to give the county yearly funding the Department of Environmental Health counts on to sample water quality and post public signs.

Board supervisors, last week, agreed to keep funding the monitoring work that protects locals and visitors in beach crowds from making contact with bacteria put int he water by sewage spills and urban storm drain runoff. Supervisor Greg Cox, in 2008, prevented an end to the widescale monitoring the department has done since the 1997 Beach Safety Act was passed in California. The state WRCB agreed to replace the monitoring state funding eliminated when the program was taken out of the state budget.

In 2011, the state board agreed with Cox on a plan to use discharge fees to fund the local beach water monitoring work in San DIego COunty.

The signs tell beachgoers the bacteria contamination in the water exceeds state health standards, or, in an event a spill or runoff pollutes the water quality, the bacteria puts public health at risk. A serious spill can lower water quality to a level a beach closure becomes necessary. Department workers post public advisory signs. The Department of Public Health keeps monitoring the water until the water quality returns to a safe level.

During dry months in San Diego, April through October, department workers monitor the water quality at 45 locations a week. 16 locations keep the workers busy monitoring water quality during the wet months, November through March.

The supervisors added 325,310 dollars to the July, 2014 to JUne, 2015 funding that totals 481,057 dollars for the fiscal year.

Permit fee funds give the county the money needed to keep watch over the beaches storm drains run water out to the beach more than 50,000 people visit a year. Monitoring was a mandate when the Beach Safety Act program was active. High levels of public use, and a history of contamination make beach locations a contamination watch location. Beaches near storm drains and near creeks, lagoons, and river mouths also get monitoring visits.

Wastewater agencies do monitoring the county department depends on to analyze water quality in other locations. The storm drain and wastewater workers handle beach contamination problems in the county water systems.

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