With rainfall anticipated this weekend, Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services reminds residents about potential health risks associated with storm water runoff at countywide beaches.

Storm water is untreated rainwater that flows through the drain system into creeks, the ocean, and other waterways. Contact with storm water while swimming or surfing may increase the risk for certain types of illnesses such as rashes, fever, chills, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Unlike the municipal sewer system, water carried by a storm drain system is not treated.

To minimize potential health risks, it is recommended that people do not swim, play or surf in the ocean and creeks for at least three days following a rain event.

Beachgoers should also avoid areas near the outfall from drainpipes and creeks that enter the ocean following a rain event as storm water runoff may carry high levels of bacteria and pollutants.

Sport harvesters should wait at least 10 days after a significant rain to harvest shellfish. High bacterial levels, pesticide, herbicide, and motor oil grease flushed into the ocean with the storm runoff may impact shellfish beds.

Adequate cooking of shellfish will destroy harmful bacteria, but may not be effective in killing viruses. In addition, cooking does not eliminate chemical and metal pollutants in shellfish.

Santa Barbara County implements a variety of programs to protect public health and enhance environmental quality of county watersheds and beaches.

To learn what is being done to improve water quality and to help, visit www.sbprojectcleanwater.org.