With rainfall continuing across the region, Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services wants to remind residents about potential health risks associated with stormwater runoff at countywide beaches.
Stormwater is untreated rainwater that flows through the drain system into creeks, the ocean, and other waterways.
Contact with stormwater 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 stormwater 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, pesticides, herbicides, and motor oil grease flushed into the ocean with the storm runoff may contaminate the shellfish beds.
Adequate cooking of shellfish will destroy harmful bacteria but may not be effective in killing viruses.
Cooking does not eliminate chemical and metal pollutants in shellfish and may not be effective in killing viruses.