Water Quality, Illness
August 31 2012

Doheny - The Plot Thickens

by Rick Wilson

As practically any surfer in southern California knows, there has been a long-running problem with poor water quality at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.  Doheny has made NRDC's "Beach Bummer" list for several years straight and routinely gets Ds or Fs on Heal the Bay's Beach Report Card.  Despite this, city and county officials have spent years saying either "we don't have a problem" or "it's the birds."  Now a few inconvenient truths have started to emerge.

An epidemiological study conducted at Doheny a couple of summers ago found that swimmers were getting sick and that there was a statistical correlation between illnesses and fecal indicator bacteria concentrations, at least when the berm at the mouth of San Juan Creek was open.

Now a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology concludes that "human sewage is at least partly responsible for the degradation of water quality, particularly at Doheny Beach."  As a result, the city of Dana Point, State Parks and the local sewer agency are starting to look seriously for the possibility of leaking sewer lines, as well as other sources including the homeless population defecating in the San Juan Creek watershed and boaters (especially those anchoring outside the harbor) dumping their sewage.

Stay tuned for further developments.