Skip to main content

Bummer! Beware of feces at San Francisco Bay Area beaches

A couple walks on the beach near Mavericks and Pillar Point Harbor on Feb. 26, 2011. | Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Hundreds of beaches across California suffered worse water quality thanks to heavy winter rains, according to a new report.

The nonprofit Heal the Bay said storm runoff from the deluge of rain California experienced during winter 2022-2023 carried sewage into the waters of many beaches, with Bay Area spots dominating the “Beach Bummers” list on its 2022-2023 Beach Report Card.

Half of the beaches on the worst offenders list were in San Mateo County, including Linda Mar Beach, Pillar Point Harbor and Erckenbrack Park. The list also included the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California and Playa Blanca in Baja, California.

Heal the Bay grades water quality on a scale from A-plus to F based on water samples tested for bacteria and pollution including fecal matter, the nonprofit said in its report. A better grade indicates a lower risk of ocean users contracting illnesses.

Some Bay Area beaches, including Marlin and Erckenbrack parks, are near a “series of human-engineered channels” near Foster City that don’t allow for much water circulation, meaning pollutants stay in the water instead of going out to sea, the report said.

In sunnier news, Bean Hollow State Beach in San Mateo County was one of two beaches to make this year’s cleanliness “Honor Roll,” meaning they received an A-plus in water quality across dry or wet conditions when measured weekly throughout the year.

The honor roll dropped from 51 beaches in the 2021-2022 report down to two in the latest 2022-2023 report, due to heavy winter rain, the report said.

In a statement to SFGate, Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn said managing stormwater is key to protecting beach water quality and protecting beachgoers.

“Now more than ever, we must prioritize multibenefit projects to manage stormwater as both a water quality and supply solution, all while ensuring that the public is kept informed of risks to public health,” Quinn said.