Campus Point and Depressions surfers beware: Recent rainy weather has lead to an increase in runoff in local creeks and beaches, and prompted Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services to issue a storm water advisory.
The advisory, which is almost always issued during storms, recommends swimmers and surfers to stay out of the water for at least three days after a storm, according to Cindy Wu, Santa Barbara County Environmental Health technician.
Environmental Health Services tested water around the county Monday, and already had issued warnings at several cites, including Goleta Beach. Wu said it held off on testing the water again Wednesday as it normally would, because heavy rains guarantee high levels of bacteria.
"Normally, we would do testing Wednesday, except because of all the rain, we decided not to take three samples. … We extended the warnings. … From past samples we know we’d just get three bad samples," she said.
Officials are prompted to issue these warnings as a result of the increased amount of potentially harmful bacteria found in storm runoff, according to Phil Tseng, chair of UCSB’s Shoreline Preservation Fund. SPF funds weekly water testing at the university, which are usually available toward the end of the week.
"With the rains, the bacteria level goes way up. Goleta Beach has exceeded the total coliform standard," he said. "What that means is that if students choose to go in the water when the bacteria is at that level, it may increase the risk of skin rashes, diarrhea and or ear infections."
Total coliforms – bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tracts of animals and humans – are the most common kind of bacteria and are found in the water, on leaves and in the soil. The amount of coliforms in ocean water off Santa Barbara beaches increases dramatically during storms. Environmental Health Services recommends surfers and swimmers to stay out of the water until at least three days after it has rained.
The county also recommends that swimmers and surfers stay at least 50 yards away from creek mouths and storm drains when a beach is under warning status. According to Tseng, water-testing results will soon be posted at various beach accesses around UCSB and Isla Vista.
"We’ve recently approved funding a project for signs at [beach] access points so students can find out the current results," he said. "There will be approximately four signs within less than a month – let’s say about three or four weeks."
The county testing results are available at http://shcphd.org/ehs/ocean.htm or on the Ocean Water Quality Hotline, (805) 681-4949.UCSB’s water testing results will be posted at www.2.chem.ucsb.edu/tildamorey/ at the end of the week.