Health officials have reduced bacteria testing at California beaches, a move that has resulted in fewer closures, but one that could also be putting more beach-goers at greater risk when it comes to contaminated water, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The number of annual tests has dropped by almost half since 2005, according to a Times study of state records. Contaminated ocean water could cause swimmers to experience eye and ear infections, skin rashes and stomach ailments.

“Water quality absolutely has gotten better during the summer months,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, a nonprofit group that issues an annual “report card” on state beaches. “But the reality is that less frequent monitoring means there's a much greater chance of someone swimming or surfing in polluted water unknowingly.”

San Onofre state beach in San Diego County was only tested four times last year versus 75 times in 2005, according to the paper.

A 1999 state law requires weekly testing of beaches only if funds are available: Testing at 39 Orange County beaches was put on hiatus for five months last winter as a result of the state's budget woes, according to the Times.

However, some agencies claimed that the frequency of the tests remains at acceptable levels.

“We continue to do the tests weekly, and we're not doing less sampling because we don't have money,” said Alfonso Medina, director of Los Angeles County's Environmental Protection Bureau.

LA Weekly