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High bacteria levels at Avila Beach posed health risks for swimmers in 2023, report says

Avila Beach, California.
Photo by Amanda Wernik.
Avila Beach, California.

Swimmers in San Luis Creek at Avila Beach in 2023 may have been exposed to bacteria levels that exceeded state health standards, according to the Surfrider Foundation's 2023 Clean Water Report.

Surfrider volunteers tested water samples from 567 beaches nationwide last year, including San Luis Creek at Avila Beach. There, 35% of the samples had high bacteria levels that surpassed California safety criteria.

“That's a real concern because an awful lot of people use that beach and recreate in that estuary,” Surfrider SLO Coordinator Niel Dilworth said.

Jeremiah Damery, an environmental health specialist for San Luis Obispo County, said creeks often have high bacteria levels.

“Just the natural watershed that runs off animals, livestock, wildlife– natural runoff into creeks into the ocean is relatively normal,” Damery said.

According to Damery, a permanent sign is posted at Avila Beach to warn people about high bacteria levels. The County posts advisories when bacteria levels at local beaches go above state standards.

KCBX Reporter Amanda Wernik graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Journalism. Amanda is currently a fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism, completing a data fellowship that will result in a news feature series to air on KCBX in the winter of 2024.
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