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Laguna’s water near pristine

Laguna Beach’s ocean water is nearly perfect, with six of Orange County’s top 10 cleanest locations falling within the city, according to a national nonprofit’s annual report released Tuesday.

Environmental Protection Agency officials test 10 locations in Laguna Beach twice a week throughout the year for bacteria levels, and of those, six sites never exceeded national bacteria level standards. Four other sites, from Bluebird Canyon to Victoria Beach, exceeded EPA standards less than 5% of the time.

To put that in context, Newport Beach’s coast, which received a number of accolades in the report, had sites that exceeded bacteria levels up to 28% of the time.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a national nonprofit that released the report, uses EPA data for its findings.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council started a new five-star ranking system this year, with stars being awarded for consistently clean water in 2007, a pattern of clean water for three consecutive years, frequent testing of the water, closings and advisories always being initiated at the first hint of a health hazard and accurate sampling for advisories and closings.

Five locations in the city, including the water off Laguna’s main beach and Crescent Bay, received a five-star rating.

“This beach rarely, if ever, had water quality that violated the standard,” the report rankings read. “An adequately monitored beach whose water is consistently meeting the national standard is a smart choice for beachgoers looking for a safe and healthy swim.”

In 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council named Laguna Beach a national “beach buddy” — the only one on the Pacific coastline — for its commitment to clean water.

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The current study found Laguna Beach’s ocean water was, for the most part, not only clean but consistently so as well. Five of the city’s locations received marks for being clean at least three years in a row, and all were recognized for last year’s results and local health official’s testing methods.

Laguna Beach’s Bluebird Canyon and Laguna Hotel water performed worst, exceeding national standards 4% of the time they were tested. The county missed the mark an average of 6% of the time and the statewide ocean water was below standards 7% of the time.

There are a number of culprits that can lower water quality, organization officials said.

The number of beach closings and advisories due to sewage spills and overflows more than tripled nationally in 2007, but the largest pollution source was storm water, or water that flows straight from the streets into the ocean without any treatment whenever it rains, according to the report.


JOSEPH SERNA can be reached at Joseph.Serna@latimes.com or (714) 966-4619.


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