Fecal coliform levels are roughly 60 times higher than is healthy in the ocean waters from Gaviota Beach to Rincon and the Santa Barbara County line. Swimmers and surfers are advised to stay out of the ocean until the untreated sewage and chemical contaminants washing downstream from the flooded homes in Montecito subside, the county warns. California’s Office of Emergency Services has also received reports of hazards washing up on the beaches, though coliform levels are not dangerous on the dry sand.
In addition to fecal coliform, enterococcus levels were more than 200 times the state standard. At both Leadbetter and Arroyo Burro beaches, enterococcus bacteria levels were above 24,192 (state health standard is 104). Fecal coliform levels at East Beach were about also above 24,192 (the state standard is 400).
While coliform bacteria aid in food digestion in the human gut, when found in the ocean, it’s an indicator that raw sewage is present. Other bacteria or viruses found in feces can cause diseases like typhoid fever, gastroenteritis, and hepatitis A.