According to data presented at a Heal the Ocean press conference, the concentration of fecal bacteria along the ocean’s edge at East Beach is nearly a thousand times higher than it is just a few hundred yards up Mission Creek, a fact that defies conventional wisdom linking creek flow to polluted oceans. The news comes from an ongoing project the United States Geological Survey is conducting in Santa Barbara, in which 13 water table wells are used to explore the connections between septic leach fields, sewer laterals and mains, urban runoff, and ocean pollution. Though the three-year study – paid for in part by Heal the Ocean – is only about half over, the early results suggest that nasty pollutants such as E. coli may be transferred from shallow groundwater sources into the ocean via the sand, and this process can sometimes take months. Though lead scientist Dr. John Izbicki (pictured left) was quick to caution that the results are only preliminary, he said it does not appear this bacteria hails from the city’s main sewer line in the area, but rather from lateral line leaks.

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