Two of the nastiest beaches in the state are in San Clemente and Dana Point.
According to Heal the Bay, an environmental group that works to clean up the oceans and coasts in California, Poche Beach and Doheny Beach are listed as the fifth and sixth dirtiest beaches in California.
The ranking is based on continuous monitoring of bacteria levels, and the ratings are based on bacteria levels during the dry summer season, when most people use the beach and bacteria levels are highest, according to a release from the organization.
Poche Beach, a county-incorporated beach along Pacific Coast Highway south of Dana Point, in the Capo Beach area, has a storm water purification system, but its effectiveness was hamstrung by the Coastal Commission when it was first built.
The apparatus was finished in 2009.
George Edwards, a senior water quality engineer for Orange County Watersheds, said that during trials last summer, the purification system was able to achieve a 95 percent reduction in the three types of bacteria measured by regulators and water quality professionals.
The Coastal Commission, however, approved the permit on the condition that the purified water be discharged into a beach pond, rather than in the surf zone.
Edwards said that once the purified runoff was discharged into the warm, shallow pond, bacteria levels jumped right back up to where they were as if the water had never been treated.
The Coastal Commission May 11 approved the Watersheds agency to test the equipment this summer by discharging the cleansed runoff directly into the surf zone where it can be immediately dispersed by the ocean.
(Another board, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, has to sign off on the testing first, though, Edwards said.)
If the tests prove effective in reducing bacteria to healthy levels, Edwards said the agency would apply to the Coastal Commission and Water Quality Control Board to make the change permanent.
Meaning maybe next year, Poche could make the grade and get off Heal the Bay's top 10 list.
The high levels of bacteria in the ocean can cause flu, ear infections and major skin rashes, among other problems.