H-CENTRAL COAST

Dec 4, 2012 10:09 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY News

Surfers face risk of ingesting dirty water

It takes something kind of major, but unfortunately, beaches sometimes get shut down because of water quality.

The South Coast saw this happen Monday when Leadbetter beach in Santa Barbara closed because of a sewage spill.

But beaches also get health advisories after rain storms, in fact Avila Beach has health warning posted on two of its beaches.

"I definitely have gotten sick from crap being in the water," said Liz Crosby, who's an avid surfer.

But that doesn't mean she'll stay out of the ocean after a storm.

"Storms bring waves and some spots get really good, and then there's the runoff, but that doesn't take precedence for me," said Crosby.

Liz Crosby was teaching her friend to surf Tuesday morning in Pismo Beach. Despite the latest storm, Pismo's in the clear.

"If the water were brown I would have second thoughts especially with my daughter out there," said Mark Wahl, just before paddling out.

Public health officials said Tuesday, looks can be deceiving and advises people to stay out of the ocean for 72 hours after the last rainfall, because you can't see the bacteria, pathogens, worms and viruses. Yes all those things can end up in the ocean after heavy rainfall.

"Some pretty extreme things that you can pick up, but most often it's milder things like rashes, sinus infections, diarrhea and vomiting," said Richard Lichtenfels, who is an environmental specialist for San Luis Obispo County Public Health.

So how does that nasty stuff get there?

"Animal feces. Both wildlife and livestock human beings those are the contributors off the watershed into creeks and rivers and it makes its way to the beach," said Lichtenfels.

And that's what someone could ingest through a wound or through a mucus membrane.

But that nasty stuff doesn't stop everyone. "I am more interested in what's breaking best," said Crosby.

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have websites where you can check on ocean water quality, just click here for SLO and here for Santa Barbara.

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