Since 2005, our Water Quality Program has documented conditions of local streams and sloughs to identify problem areas for future monitoring and to pinpoint pollution sources so we can work to reduce or eliminate them. Thanks to the dozens of dedicated volunteers and partners who help make our program successful!    

Clam Beach landed on Heal the Bay's list of California's most polluted beaches yet again this year, getting an 'F' for water quality on the 2021 Beach Report Card. This episode of EcoNews Report features Dr. Jeremy Corrigan, who has worked for years to answer the burning question: why does Clam Beach have such high levels of fecal indicator bacteria? Dr. J is the Lab Manager at the Humboldt County Dept. of Public Health, and recently published a paper based on genetic analysis of the most likely sources. His findings point to birds as the main influence at Clam Beach, while cattle appear to be the biggest source of bacteria pollution in the Strawberry Creek watershed. Tune in to find out what this means for surfers and other beachgoers. 

Clam Beach landed on Heal the Bay's “Beach Bummer” list of California's most polluted beaches for the seventh time in 11 years, getting an 'F' for water quality on the latest Beach Report Card

But after years of research, we now have a better sense of the source of this pollution thanks to a new study by Humboldt County's Public Health Lab Manager, Dr. Jeremy Corrigan.

In short, Dr. Corrigan’s research identified birds as the primary source of pollution at Clam Beach, while cattle are the main source upstream in Strawberry Creek. 

"Clam Beach is frequented by birds, which adds to the allure of its location and should be celebrated not feared." from Corrigan et al. Microbial Source Tracking Approach to Investigate Fecal Waste at the Strawberry Creek Watershed and Clam Beach, California, USAInt. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(13), 6901.

This winter, we continued our bacteria pollution study with the goal of identifying the sources of fecal bacteria at six sites in Jolly Giant Creek in Arcata. This Humboldt Bay tributary was flagged for further investigation due to the frequency of human genetic material in samples taken near Samoa Blvd. during the Regional Water Board's Coastal Streams Pathogens TMDL Project.

COVID-19 update: Our sampling event scheduled for April 6 has been delayed due to both safety concerns and limited lab capacity. Our extraordinairy colleagues at the Humboldt County Public Health Lab are working diligently to analyze COVID-19 samples. We will resume our Jolly Giant Creek Bacteria Source Study as soon as it is safe to do so.

Once again, Humboldt County’s Clam Beach has been ranked as one of the state’s 10 worst beaches when it comes to water quality.
According to Heal The Bay’s 2020-21 beach report card, Clam Beach at Strawberry Creek is the seventh worst in the state. The environmental nonprofit’s Beach Bummer list ranks the state’s 10 most polluted beaches according to water sampling data.

Clam Beach has posted failing summer dry grades in seven out of the last 11 years Heal The Bay has published its report cards.

Humboldt Baykeeper director Jennifer Kalt said strong evidence indicates high levels of bacteria in the ocean waters can be linked to birds, as opposed to bacteria originating from cattle in the freshwater stream.

“Even though the levels of bacteria are high enough to get an F grade on the Beach Bummer list, the genetic analysis shows (the bacteria) is primarily from birds,” she said. “And so, in the ocean, you have the influence of birds because there’s so many birds at the beach.”

Humboldt Baykeeper works with Dr. Margarita Otero-Diaz, an Assistant Professor at Humboldt State University's Environmental Resources Engineering Department, and her students to design and implement water quality monitoring projects in local waterways. 

In Spring 2021, students Claire Bareilles, Katherine Hardaker, and Caleb Wegener monitored water quality at five sites in two Humboldt Bay tributaries (Jacoby Creek and Martin Slough).

They presented their findings at the 12th annual CSU Water Resources and Policy Initiatives Conference. 

Click HERE to enlarge the image.

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