This week’s release of Heal the Bay’s 2019/2020 Beach Report Card shows truly bad news for San Mateo County beaches. We were disheartened to learn that 6/10 beaches in California that are most impacted by bacterial pollution (the ‘Beach Bummers’) are located in our area. These include:

  • No. 1 – Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at San Vicente Creek Outlet 
  • No. 3 – Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue 
  • No. 4 – Foster City, Erckenbrack Park 
  • No. 6 – Pillar Point Harbor Beach 
  • No. 7 – Linda Mar Beach at San Pedro Creek 
  • No. 10 – Pillar Point Harbor at Westpoint Avenue

There were also many other beaches not on the Beach Bummer list (which is limited to 10 beaches) both on the coast and bayside that had chronically high levels of bacteria. Some of the San Mateo County locations on the list came as no surprise. We have been well aware of the water quality issues plaguing the Pillar Point Harbor, Linda Mar, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.  We have been working to advocate and remediate these beaches through our various programs.  However, we were disappointed to see Fitzgerald Marine Reserve topping the list as the most polluted beach in the State; chronic pollution in a Marine Protected Area is a sobering reminder that we have a lot of work to do to improve the health of our coast and bay beaches. 

As a passionate group of community members who rely on local beaches for recreation, the Surfrider Foudation’s San Mateo Chapter is committed to working with regional local government municipalities and other local community groups to discover the sources of pollution and put in place permanent solutions that improve water quality at all SMC beaches. There may be many stakeholders responsible for this issue, and the chapter intends to work closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the County of San Mateo, the Resource Conservation District, and the Harbor District to discover the root of these pollution problems.

Such collaboration does not come without precedent. The Cowell Beach Working Group in Santa Cruz is composed of the Surfrider Foundation Santa Cruz Chapter, Save the Waves, the Sierra Club, and city and county public health officials. After years of partnership, Cowell Beach (a chronic Beach Bummer) fell off the list as bacteria levels have trended downwards in recent years. We hope to learn from groups like this who worked together to find a solution to this chronic pollution.

We are also committed to shedding more light on our polluted bayside beaches. Too often do coastal beach issues dominate the attention (and subsequently, the resources) of the public and important stakeholders. All residents of our county – both coastal and bayside – deserve safe, healthy, and clean beaches.

Our Blue Water Task Force has conducted weekly water quality sampling since 2002, with the goal of providing year-round, easily-accessible water quality information so the community knows where it’s safe to swim, surf and play in the water. Due to COVID-19 related safety concerns, our Blue Water Task Force program paused water testing efforts in mid-March, but the San Mateo Chapter plans to restart the program this weekend with the promise of providing up-to-date water quality information to the community. To keep you and your family safe at the beach, find our water quality results at go.surfrider.org, and subscribe to the chapter’s weekend reports of water quality. 

If you are as disappointed by this news as we are, we encourage you to become a member of the Surfrider Foundation. We welcome you to our next beach clean up which will be held at Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay on July 18th from 9-11a. Our next chapter meeting will be held virtually, also on July 18th at 5p. Please visit smc.surfrider.org for more information. Surfrider Foundation has always been dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches, for all people, and with our community behind us, we hope to secure the clean beaches that all folks of San Mateo County deserve.