The water at Rincon’s famed point break, which exceeded bacterial pollution standards in 17 percent of weekly county tests last year, may be a little more enticing to surfers in the future as locals work to rid the beach of potentially harmful septic systems.

The State Water Resources Control Board approved a $425,600 grant May 18 to fund an environmental impact report for a sewer system in the Carpinteria area. The proposed system would replace septic tanks in Rincon, Sandyland, Sand Point, Pedro Lane and Beach Club Road.

“The majority of septic systems work quite well,” said John Miko, district general manager of the Carpinteria Sanitary District. “But when you get into an area with a high population, especially in beach communities, the water that is supposed to be absorbed by the septic system is actually seeping out and polluting the ocean.”

The Rincon area voted in August 2000 to create a sewer assessment district, but five homeowners filed a lawsuit against the CSD, charging that under California law an EIR must be conducted first.

“The sewer system could possibly have a negative effect, especially in the Chumash village in Rincon Point where there may be a lot of archeological artifacts,” Miko said. “The EIR should be completed in three to four months and finished, certified and reviewed by next year. It’s a long process.”

Steve Halsted, a member and former president of the Carpinteria Homeowners Board, said the Carpinteria community stands behind the switch to sewage systems.

“Myself and the majority of the community are delighted that this project is back on track. We had previously voted as a majority to go ahead, but the lack of funding for the EIR and a lawsuit that is now defeated were holding things up,” he said. “Now that we’ve got this grant, we can take this major step for the coastline.”

Santa Barbara-based environmental group Heal the Ocean and local homeowners collaborated with the CSD to secure funds for the EIR. The grant comes from Proposition 13, which sets money aside for clean-water programs.

Hillary Hauser, executive director of Heal the Ocean, said the money will bring attention to other areas polluted by septic tanks on the South Coast.

“[The area to be studied] represents seven miles of county coastline that could soon be swept clean of badly located septic systems,” Hauser wrote in a statement. “And it opens the door to the work we need to do in other problematic areas of the county where there are septic leachfield failures.”

Miko said other South Coast communities are expected to follow Carpinteria’s example in switching from septic systems to sewer systems.

“Santa Barbara has been approached about making the switch, but things are going slowly it seems. If we succeed in Carpinteria then this could be the beginning of a major push up the coast – a ripple effect,” he said.

Senior environmental studies major and Surfrider Foundation member Ken Pereira said local surfers will benefit from this decision.

“There are a lot of areas where people from Santa Barbara go surfing, namely Rincon, that are using septic tanks and allowing septic sewage to leak into the ocean,” he said. “It is great that they are going to try to make a change.”