The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health issued a water quality advisory for La Jolla Cove Aug. 3-4, noting that during the advisory period, bacteria levels exceeded health standards and contact with the water should be avoided.
According to the County’s Beach & Bay Water Quality Program, The Cove is “sampled weekly, year round, by the County of San Diego” and that “water quality may be impacted by marine mammals, birds and other sources at this location.”
Jessica Northrup, communications officer with the County of San Diego, said there was nothing noteworthy that caused the bacteria to spike. “During a routine inspection, the bacteria levels were higher than what the County considers safe, leading to the advisory,” she said, adding that when the water was tested again on Aug. 4, the bacteria levels were deemed safe.
In April 2016, the County posted a similar advisory, citing an “uncommon number” of high-bacteria results.
Northrup said La Jolla Cove is one of 45 locations that is monitored by the Department of Environmental Health in accordance with Assembly Bill 411.
“The goal of AB 411 is to monitor water quality at least weekly during the summer season (April 1 through October 31) and notify the public when state health standards are not met,” she said. “This may indicate a higher risk of illness to swimmers. Due to a potentially elevated risk of illness, the Department of Environmental Health recommends avoiding water contact at beaches where a water quality advisory is in place.”
Heal the Bay, an environmental monitoring group, issues a report card each year for California’s beaches. It gave La Jolla Cove a “D” grade for the summer 2016 (April to October 2016). Among the findings, Heal the Bay said, “Agency staff who monitor water quality in the area noted anecdotally an increase in seal and sea lion activity at the site. Whether or not the seals and sea lions are a contributing factor to these high counts — additional studies would need to confirm. It is likely that the Cove-like conditions exacerbate poor water quality, much like at an enclosed waterbody site.”
Northrup added, “As with any beach, there are a number of factors that can affect water quality at La Jolla Cove including tides, wave intensity, flushing frequency, presence of humans or animals, presence and amount of surface water runoff and potentially others.”
However, this summer’s Heal the Bay report card (the most recent end date is June 28) gave Cove waters an “A+” grade. Data is not available for the months of July and August.
Dan Simonelli, president of La Jolla Cove Swim Club, said in recent weeks, swimmers who frequent The Cove have noticed an increase in sea lions present and see it as no coincidence that the water quality advisory was issued.
“We noticed a difference in the smell at The Cove and then all of a sudden the (water quality advisory) sign went up. We’ve also seen more sea lions on The Cove beach in the morning. We’re not sure if they are the same ones as the ones that haul out on the bluffs at Boomer Beach (near the Bridge Club) or if there are new ones. It seems connected,” he said.
San Diego County has created a Water Quality mobile app people can use to check whether an advisory is in effect in real time. Instructions to add a shortcut to this App for Android and Apple devices can be found at sdbeachinfo.com