Decent waves proved more inciting to a few Thursday afternoon surfers than signs warning to stay at least 400 yards from either side of the Arroyo Burro Creek mouth
Paul Wellman

A backup in city sewers led to 700 gallons of sewage flowing out onto the streets and into a storm drain on the Mesa, on Monday, December 7. The waste ended up in the Pacific, prompting Santa Barbara County to close Arroyo Burro Beach.

City workers were able to corral about 100 gallons of sewage before it flowed into a drain at Cliff Drive and Mesa Lane, but estimate that approximately 700 gallons slipped past by the time they responded. A backup in the sewer main caused the untreated sewage to come out through a manhole cover, the path of least resistance.

Warning signs posted at Arroyo Burro Beach didn't stop a handful of surfers from taking advantage of the waves
Paul Wellman

Tests done at Arroyo Burro on Monday indicated bacteria amounts in the water were 15 times the standard. The public should be avoiding the water anyway because of the rain runoff from Monday, according to David Brummond, a supervising environmental health specialist for the county. Despite the nearly irresistible draw of high waves often present during and following storms, Brummond warned that people should avoid runoff by staying away from the water for 72 hours. The bad water increases the risk for certain types of illnesses.

Cameron Benson, the city’s creeks restoration and water quality manager, said the sewage spill wasn’t as big as some, but worth taking note of. “Seven hundred gallons is actually not a large spill, but definitely something we’re concerned about and something we want to respond to,” he said. “It’s significant to us.”

The county posted signs at the beach on Monday at noon, closing it until further notice. On Wednesday, the city did a test, the results of which-available 24 hours later-are yet unknown, but the beach was still closed to water contact for about 400 yards on either side of Arroyo Burro Creek.


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