Paradise Cove moves closer to deserving its name

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Paradise Cove may finally be living up to its name, at least when it comes to the water.

Over the years the Malibu beach had become known as much for its poor water quality as for being featured in the 1970s television series “The Rockford Files.”

This year, however, the gains made in the health of Paradise Cove mark one of the pieces of good news in the Beach Report Card released Wednesday by the Santa Monica nonprofit group Heal the Bay, which analyzes monitoring data at 326 beaches in California and assigns them A through F grades.

Last year Paradise Cove, where mobile home park residents used to complain of seeing raw sewage leaking from manholes and flowing into storm drains, received an F. This year, the beach is passing with a respectable B, which means it rarely exceeded standards for bacteria that indicate the presence of illness-causing pathogens.

Seventy-nine percent of Los Angeles County’s 86 beaches received A’s or Bs, compared with 70% last year and a six-year average of 73%.

“It wasn’t the driest of years, and yet we’re really starting to see some substantial improvements,” said Heal the Bay President Mark Gold.

Heal the Bay credits the rising grades at some beaches to new facilities that divert and treat urban runoff to keep bacteria- and virus-laden water from reaching the ocean and infecting swimmers with skin rashes, sinus infections and gastrointestinal viruses.

In the last decade the state Water Board has spent $30 million on two dozen projects in Los Angeles County, officials said.

But the county has continued to dominate the list of the state’s most polluted beaches, with five Los Angeles County locations ranking among the 10 worst in California.

Avalon Harbor Beach continued its reign as the most contaminated seashore in the state, topping the list for the third year in a row.

Overall, Orange County was at the top of the class with about 97% of its beaches scoring A or B. Poche Beach in San Clemente remained a glaring exception, dropping to fourth-worst in the state.

Several Malibu-area beaches saw marked improvements, including Paradise Cove, where a new treatment plant captures water from a creek that used to flow directly into the ocean.

County officials believe the improvement at Marie Canyon in Malibu, which made a significant leap from scoring Fs last year to B and C grades this year, is tied to a diversion system that zaps dry-weather runoff with ultraviolet rays to kill bacteria before they reach the ocean.