Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 6/25/2004
Subject: Ocean Beach Water Quality
Contact: Harriet Hill
Phone: (707) 445-6215

An ocean water quality monitoring program carried out by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services - Environmental Health Division indicates that local beaches have generally excellent water quality. Under the program, four beaches currently are monitored weekly for the presence of fecal bacteria: Clam Beach near Strawberry Creek, Moonstone Beach near Little River, Luffenholtz Beach near Luffenholtz Creek, and Trinidad State Beach near Mill Creek. These beaches were chosen for testing based on their relatively high visitor use and proximity to creeks with summer flow. The water monitoring program began in February of 2003 and will be in place through September of 2004. This program is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency BEACH grant, through the California Department of Health Services.
The high water quality of these beaches is indicated by the “very good to excellent” grades awarded to Humboldt County by Heal the Bay’s 14th Annual Beach Report Card. Heal the Bay is a Santa Monica-based nonprofit organization that grades over 370 locations year-round on an A-F scale based on the risk of adverse health effects to swimmers and surfers. The grades are based on fecal bacteria pollution levels in the surfzone. For 2003, Heal the Bay rated Trinidad and Luffenholtz Beaches as A+ and Clam Beach as A, while Moonstone Beach received a B for water quality.
The weekly shoreline water samples are analyzed for three indicator bacteria: total coliform, fecal coliform (or E.coli) and enterococcus. The amount of indicator bacteria present in the surfzone is currently the best indication of whether or not a beach is safe for recreational contact. Indicator bacteria are not usually the microorganisms that cause illness in swimmers. Instead, their presence indicates the potential for water contamination with other pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa that do pose a health risk to humans.
If state standards for any of these three bacteria are exceeded for two consecutive shoreline samples, the Environmental Health Division will post the beach with warning signs. The signs will be removed when subsequent samples show that the bacteria are no longer present. At this time, the Environmental Health Division has yet to post any of these beaches.
Citizens can take many steps to help prevent creek and ocean water contamination. Conserving water, reducing runoff, maintaining septic systems, properly disposing of pet waste and boat waste, fixing car leaks, recycling used motor oil, planting landscapes instead of paving them, and minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use are some of the recommended measures.
Weekly water quality data for the beaches monitored by the Environmental Health Division is posted on the Humboldt County website at: This website address also has more detail on pollution prevention measures, and a complete record of water quality data for the beach monitoring program. For further information, please contact the Environmental Health Division at 707-445-6215. The Heal the Bay Beach Report Card is available at:


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