County of Marin - News Releases - Beach Water Quality

For Immediate Release
March 19, 2021

Water Quality Issues Arise at Point Reyes Beaches

High bacteria rates reported at several beaches within national seashore

San Rafael, CA – Environmental health experts with the County of Marin are working with the National Park Service to address high bacterial levels at three coastal locations within the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Water quality specialists with the Environmental Health Services (EHS) Division of the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA) were notified via phone and email on March 16 of a recently published news report and an independent report from a geoenvironmental engineer about high bacterial levels at Drakes Estero, Kehoe Beach, and Abbotts Lagoon, all National Park Service locations on the Point Reyes peninsula. The seven samples were collected on January 27-28 following a wet event. After reviewing the sampling report and location of the three areas, EHS was unable to determine the report’s accuracy and the locations were not in the authority of EHS.

For two days, water quality warning signage was posted at the locations before EHS took them down to honor the jurisdictional boundaries. “It is up to the National Park Service to review and give guidance on water toxicology for sites not included in our monitoring program,” said Greg Pirie, Interim Deputy Director of CDA and Supervisor of EHS. “We removed the signs once we realized the sites were not under our authority.”

County EHS has monitored ocean, bay and freshwater sites in Marin since 2003 in response to California State Assembly Bill 411 (AB 411), enacted in 1997 to protect public health. AB 411 requires the EHS to sample and report water quality measurements from beaches specifically for primary contact recreational uses, such as swimming, wading, and surfing.

Public health advisories must be posted at beaches as soon as possible if testing results indicate an exceedance in bacteria levels. The signage needs to remain up for at least one week or until a subsequent water sample indicates recreational standards are met.

“We have had strong collaborations with the National Park Service and stakeholders who help in monitoring the waters even during the pandemic,” Pirie said.

EHS staff will continue to collaborate with National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), and park rangers on sampling within Point eyes National Seashore.

EHS is resuming its seasonal monitoring program April 5. More than 50,000 people annually visit beaches under EHS’ jurisdiction.


Arti Kundu
Project Manager, Environmental Health Services
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 236
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7146
Email: Arti Kundu
Environmental Health Services