Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 5:02 pm | Fair 66º


Local News

High Bacteria Levels Found at Santa Barbara Beaches

High levels of bacteria have been recorded at two Santa Barbara beaches this week, and public health officials are urging the public to use caution in the water. 

Storm drains at Leadbetter Beach and East Beach tested higher for a type of bacteria called enterococcus, which can cause skin rashes and sinus infections in people, said David Drummond, a supervisor of Environmental Heath with the County of Santa Barbara Public Health Department.

The bacteria is more prevalent where birds congregate, and “it crops up all the time and becomes part of the water column,” he said.

The department tested the water samples on Monday and got results back on Wednesday.

Runoff from El Niño rainstorms last week and higher wave action stirring up sand and sediment back into the water column are likely reasons the count is higher, he said.

Though many have been taking advantage of the large waves to get in  some surfing, Public Health officials issued a warning last week that there would be the potential for worse water quality.

People should avoid dirty and discolored water, and know that the virus and bacteria levels could be higher in water after runoff occurs, Drummond said.

“We advise people to stay out of there,” he said.

If people insist on swimming at the beaches, they should swim up current from the outfalls where storm water enters the ocean, he added.

At Leadbetter, that location is near Shoreline Cafe and the beach’s bathrooms.

At East Beach, where Mission Creek empties into the ocean tested higher than normal for bacteria.

The department tests the water at local beaches once a week, and will post signage if counts are higher than standard.

At Leadbetter, the amount of that bacteria was four times the standard level in this week’s results, Drummond said.

He said that the water quality can be compromised in that area because of the lagoon that collects water and draws ocean birds.

The water can begin to ferment before a storm will provide the water pressure needed to break through the sand berm and flood the water into the ocean, he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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