Credit: Paul Wellman

Montecito’s Butterfly Beach has been closed to all recreational water contact within a quarter mile of the storm drain outfall after 6,650 gallons of untreated sewage escaped a broken sewer force main and spilled into the ocean, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced Thursday, March 16.

Montecito Sanitary District discovered the broken pipe on Channel Drive and reported it Thursday morning to County Public Health’s Environmental Health Services division and the California State Warning Center, said Environmental Health Services’ spokesperson Jason Johnston. The pipe is currently being repaired, and it’s not anticipated that any more sewage will be discharged to the storm drain.

Signs have been posted at affected areas of Butterfly Beach warning the public to avoid contact with the water. Once sample results show the water is safe for recreational use again, the beach will be reopened. In the meantime, Public Health warns that “contact with sewage-contaminated water increases the risk for certain types of illnesses such as rashes, fever, chills, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea.”

While the statement from Public Health did not indicate what damaged the sewer line, news of the spill comes shortly after a rainstorm passed through the county. Three Santa Barbara County beaches were closed in January due to sewage spills from sewer pipes believed to be damaged by that month’s monster rainstorms.

More information can be found about water quality in the county at


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