The purity of many Santa Barbara County beaches will soon be refined by two state-funded proposals.
Santa Barbara County’s Project Clean Water received $2.5 million from the state this summer for the Clean Beaches Initiative and Rincon Beach Project. The Rincon project will deal with human-waste disposal, while the Clean Beaches Initiative focuses on regular water testing.
“I am pleased that the governor maintained funding for these important projects in the budget,” said Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, chair of California’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. “[Santa Barbara] has been on top of this issue and ahead of most of the communities.”
Last year, California voters approved a $2.8 billion water bond, $90 million of which has been set aside for a statewide coastal pollution cleanup. According to Jackson, $2 million will be directed toward the water purification of six local beaches: Arroyo Burro, Arroyo Quemada, Mission Creek, Refugio, Gaviota and Jalama. A portion of the money will be available in low-interest loans for county governments in order to transition communities from septic systems to sewer systems.
The Rincon Beach project focuses mainly on human waste disposal systems and high levels of bacteria in the water that have plagued coastal access points for years, Jackson said. Rincon’s $500,000 allotment will be used to specifically identify types of bacteria in the water and their sources.
“Polluted water offshore is a pressing issue that many of us face every day,” said Adam Garcia, co-chair of UCSB’s Environmental Affairs Board. “The funding provided by the state will be a valuable resource for local Santa Barbara communities to ensure good, clean, safe swimming and surfing.”
A water sample taken Monday from Arroyo Quemada Beach, included in the Clean Beach Initiative, showed a count of almost four times the standard amount of Enterococci.
Enterococcus, a bacterial organism, is found in water as a result of circulation of animal excrement and environmental persistence such as run-off water caused by rainstorms. The bacteria have been known to cause urinary tract infections, bacteremia, intra-abdominal infections, and endocarditis. There have also been several cases of swimmers contracting hepatitis from polluted ocean water.
“Project Clean Water has been both fortunate in terms of political support in Sacramento and local support here in Santa Barbara,” said Dan Ried, project manager of Santa Barbara Environmental Health Services.