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Heal the Ocean Compiles 15-Year Beach Bacteria Database

Heal the Ocean announces the completion of a comprehensive database covering fecal indicator bacteria monitoring for local beaches in Santa Barbara County from Guadalupe to Rincon. This database is now available for download on HTO’s website.

The HTO Beach Bacteria Database, created in February by HTO policy analyst James Hawkins, incorporates ocean testing results from County of Santa Barbara Environmental Health Services, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and County of Ventura Environmental Health Division into an electronic database with detailed spreadsheets for all weekly monitoring data going back to 1997 — and for some beaches — back to 1996.

Since the passage of AB 411 in 1998, California counties have been required to monitor for fecal indicator bacteria, which can indicate the potential presence of pathogens. The goal of AB 411 is to protect the health of visitors at State beaches, but ultimately, the magnitude of monitoring and testing has provided information to create an important resource for those working to identify sources of coastal contamination.

For the first time, the 15 years of Santa Barbara County monitoring data has been formatted and gathered into a single document. All of this information in one place gives a unique insight to trends related to ocean pollution.

The HTO Beach Bacteria Database provides a public resource for policymakers, scientists and the public to examine and analyze occurrences of indicator bacteria at local beaches, as well as come to a better understanding of the overall condition of Santa Barbara County beaches over time. In addition, the Beach Bacteria Database offers a model to other California coastal communities interested in detecting parallel trends along their shorelines.

The spreadsheets, which include thousands of lines of data for all three indicator bacteria, with accompanying information on exceedances of State standards, is now available in the Research section of Heal the Ocean’s website for download via Microsoft Excel.

For more information, contact James Hawkins at Heal the Ocean at 805.965.7570 or [email protected].

— Hillary Hauser is executive director of Heal the Ocean.

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