Following the recent sewage spill, Goleta Beach has been closed to the public; signs advise visitors to avoid all contact with the water until results come back clean. LAURYN CUMMINS / DAILY NEXUS

Over the course of four days, more than 1,000,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled into the Goleta Slough during the rainstorms earlier this month. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department estimates that a hole in the main sewer line next to the Santa Barbara Airport released approximately 1 million gallons of sewage beginning on Feb. 17. As it traveled all the way to the beach, the sewage necessitated a closure which was enacted on Feb. 22.    

This follows a spill that closed Miramar Beach on Feb. 20 after around 2,500 gallons of sewage leaked into Oak Creek next to Sinaloa Drive. 

A statement issued by the Goleta Sanitary District (GSD) on Feb. 22 revealed that the Goleta West Sanitary District reached out to GSD on the morning of Feb. 17 regarding assistance needed for the force main sewer line. 

Crews brought resources to help immediately, offering examination and cleanup assistance. Substantial equipment and water quality analysis were utilized to investigate the source of the spill, for which rainwater was apparently responsible. 

According to GSD, rainwater invades the sewage systems at an overwhelming volume, usually causing these contamination events.

The resulting sewage contamination also prompted public health advisories. The Goleta West Sanitary District said there is increased vulnerability from contact with sewage-infected water that can cause various illnesses, including rashes, chills, ear infections, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Signs were posted along Goleta Beach advising the public to avoid all contact with the water pending further results from water samples.

The Goleta Slough spill is the largest to occur in the last 10 years, and over 40 times bigger than the previous record. 

While the exact timeline is unknown, Goleta Beach is expected to remain closed until water test results come back clean and bacterial levels return to normal. 

A version of this article appeared on pg. 8 of the Feb. 29, 2024 print edition of the Daily Nexus.