Hermosa Beach's coastal waters received an A grade in environmental group Heal the Bay's 2009 Beach Report Card, which designated them one of the cleanest and safest in California.
The water samples taken from the surf zone contained some of the lowest levels of bacteria pollution of all the beaches in California, the organization reported.
Mike Grimmer, manager of the Beach Report Card, said that public health experts tested the samples for levels of total coliform, fecal coliform and enterococcus bacteria. The tests determined how likely it was that people would get sick from the water.
According to Grimmer, beach visitors will be more likely to suffer from skin rashes, gastrointestinal diseases or earaches if they swim in water with higher levels of these bacteria, which indicate pollution from numerous sources, including fecal waste.
"Actually the science is that it's not these three bacteria that cause the illness," Grimmer said. "It's more about its presence, because usually if there's more of these bacteria, then it means that it's more likely that more illness-causing bacteria is within the water."
The report card attributes Hermosa Beach's low level of water pollution to the city's Clean Beach Initiative project, which includes infiltration systems along Pier Avenue and an infiltration trench south of the pier along the Strand.
According to the card, the dry weather runoff that arrives at the pier flows through trash and sediment removal devices before it is directed into the infiltration trench. The system uses sand to filter and infiltrate the water.
Steve Barrell, city manager of Hermosa Beach, says there are other structures that are keeping the runoff water clear of large objects and pollutants, such as catch basins and barriers on storm drains.
"[The A grade] shows that our effort has been very strong to keep the ocean clean of any toxic wastes," Barrell said. "It also is largely based on our public information campaign to inform people to keep the whole community clean."
The city's clean beach water is one of the factors that contributes to the healthful lifestyle of Hermosa Beach residents. The town is one of the finalists to become the second "vitality city" in a nationwide competition.
The Beach Cities Health District applied for the vitality distinction on behalf of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. A team of judges is scheduled to visit the South Bay on June 10. A winner will be elected in mid-July.
If selected by visiting judges, the beach cities will receive expert advice from Blue Zones, LLC, which will help design environmental and policy changes to encourage healthier habits in the community. Blue Zones has conducted scientific research around the world as well as developed applications of health and well-being within contained societies.
Lisa Santora, the district's chief medical officer, said she is proud that the city has worked hard to improve itself for this competition.
"Hermosa Beach did plenty of great things, like turning the Santa Fe Railway line into a greenbelt and starting a bike club," she said. "It really reflects all the efforts by the mayor, by the City Council, by the congressional members and by parks and recreation to make themselves a better community."