Governor Jerry Brown has responded to the amazing outpouring of support from residents of Summerland, Santa Barbara, and across California as well as an army of Heal the Ocean supporters in favor of SB44 (Jackson) by signing the bill into law!

This legislation will provide $2 million per year to cap leaking oil wells off the coast of California for 7 years, starting in 2018. The State Lands Commission completed their Environmental Impact Report for the capping of the Summerland wells in July 2017. Heal the Ocean "dogged" this legislation through every single House and Senate committee, calling for HTO members to write letters and cards every single step of the way. You all came through! 

We are told that the aerial survey commissioned by HTO and completed by Aqueos Subsea and Planck Aerosystems just in time for a critical vote, had much to do with SB44 getting to the Governor's desk. The aerial survey pinpointed definite oil-capping targets, and took away doubt and guessing. The Planck Aerosystems aerial survey will now be followed by a dive survey by Aqueos Subsea - all of this possible because of generous funding from Manitou Fund, Minnesota, the family foundation of Summerland resident Nora McNeely Hurley.

Goleta Sanitary Distrct Wastewater Treatment Upgrade

Heal the Ocean successfully advocated for the upgrade of the Goleta Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant to full secondary treatment. This project has helped protect marine life and ocean recreation by cleaning up wastewater discharged only a mile off Goleta Beach.

When the federal Clean Water Act passed in 1972, all wastewater treatment plants were required to upgrade their treatment facilities to full secondary level. The 301h Waiver provision in the Act gave treatment plants time to complete this work. When Heal the Ocean formed in 1998, Goleta Sanitary District was one of the few wastewater treatment plants in California still operating on this waiver, and reapplying every five years to continue discharging into the ocean wastewater that was only partially treated to secondary levels. Thirty years after the Clean Water Act, Heal the Ocean took action to stop this delay.


Key Milestones

  • Goleta Sanitary District applies to the Central Coast Regional Water Board for a fourth five-year waiver from Section 301(b) of the Clean Water Act, which mandates that publicly owned wastewater treatment plants achieve secondary treatment on their discharges.
  • Heal the Ocean convinces the Central Coast Regional Water Board to deny the 301(b) waiver. Key testimony was our 3 minute underwater video of Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser and Heal the Ocean supporter Jeff Maassen diving on the Goleta outfall, 1 mile offshore in 90 feet of water.


  • Heal the Ocean hires former Environmental Defense Center attorney Vicki Clark to help us fight this appeal. We attend State Water Board workshops on the issue, and the State Water Board ultimately remands the case back to the Regional Water Board for "more documentation" from Goleta Sanitary District that would support their waiver.
  • Heal the Ocean hires consultants, including Craig Barilotti, to provide evidence of beach pollution to the Regional Water Board.
  • Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser and Attorney Vicki Clark travel to Sacramento to receive surprise ruling from the State Water Board upholding denial of waiver. (State Water Board staff had recommended upholding the appeal.)
  • With input from Heal the Ocean, and our legal representation Marco Gonzalez of Coast Law Group, the Regional Water Board and Goleta Sanitary District reach a settlement agreement requiring a ten-year implementation and construction schedule for the upgrade of Goleta Sanitary District facilities to full secondary treatment. Heal the Ocean contracts with engineering firm Metcalf & Eddy on an upgrade schedule that is ultimately included as a part of the settlement agreement.
  • Goleta Sanitary District completes the ten-year $40 million project to upgrade its treatment facilities to full secondary treatment on-time and under-budget. This project will significantly reduce the discharges of waste solids to marine waters off Goleta's coast and better protect recreational users at UCSB's Campus Point and Goleta Beach from potentially harmful pathogens.


Heal the Ocean is Invited to Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for new Wastewater Facilities

GSD General Manager Kamil Azoury and members of GSD Board of Directors address the audience at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the all-new GSD facility 

GSD General Manager Kamil Azoury and members of GSD Board of Directors address the audience at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the all-new GSD facility 

After years of effort, the upgrade to Goleta Sanitary District's wastewater treatment facilities is completed, and Heal the Ocean is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony for the completed project.

Heal the Ocean commends Goleta Sanitary District's board and staff for completing this project on time and under-budget for the benefit of the entire Goleta community.

South Coast Beach Communities Septic To Sewer

Heal the Ocean championed the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project to remove 130 septic systems from seven miles of Santa Barbara County coastline.


This project is the culmination of years of effort through a partnership between Carpinteria Sanitary District and Heal the Ocean to remove septic systems and provide sewer service to the Rincon, Padaro Lane, Sandyland, and Sand Point communities in southern Santa Barbara County. This fifteen year battle to remove polluting septic systems from these popular beaches, and the world-famous Rincon surf break, was only possible thanks to the tireless strength of Carpinteria Sanitary District, Rincon Homeowners, and so many Heal the Ocean supporters. 

This webpage includes photos of many of the amazing individuals that made this project a reality as a tribute to their steadfast support through all of the twists and turns in the 15-year saga to bring this project to fruition.

To learn more about this incredible journey, please download our  Rincon Special Edition Newsletter.

Key Milestones

  • CURE (Clean up Rincon Effluent), started by Joel Smith ("Smitty"), Wayne Babcock, and Doug deFirmian, circulates a petition among surfers complaining about getting sick after surfing at the Rincon.
  • After Heal the Ocean’s (HTO) founding earlier that year, HTO partners with Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services to fund a groundbreaking study on sources of fecal bacteria in Rincon Creek. Results find human sources of contamination and provide support for surfers’ longstanding concerns with water quality at Rincon beaches.

    Read the Lower Rincon Creek Watershed Study

  • With contributory funding from Heal the Ocean and our partners, the Rincon sewer engineering study estimates sewer hookup costs at $2.9 million. Rincon homeowners ultimately vote overwhelmingly in favor of levying their homes to fund this project with 74% voting in favor. The total price includes $425,000 for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required for the project.

  • With no alternative funding available, Heal the Ocean helps then-Carpinteria Sanitary District Manager John Miko secure grant funding for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required for this project. The grant is awarded to this project by the State Water Board as a “number one priority.”

  • After over a year of work, the vital final (multi-volume) EIR is completed and approved by the Carpinteria Sanitary District.

  • Heal the Ocean establishes a $48k Supplemental EIR fund, to have additional planning work completed on the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer project.

Hillary Hauser with world class surfer Shaun Tomson at LAFCO hearing.

Hillary Hauser with world class surfer Shaun Tomson at LAFCO hearing.

  • LAFCO unanimously votes to approve the Rincon, Padaro Lane, Sandyland, and Sand Point annexation to Carpinteria Sanitary District.

Heal the Ocean Board Member Heather Hudson at Rincon

Heal the Ocean Board Member Heather Hudson at Rincon

  • Heal the Ocean successfully defends a $2.1 million grant application by Carpinteria Sanitary District against protests from several project opponents. The grant ultimately reduced homeowner costs by 25%.
  • The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) passes Resolution No. R3-2007-0095supporting the septic to sewer project.
  • The final vote by the Rincon community is 73-59 in favor of annexation to the Carpinteria Sanitary District’s sphere of influence.
  • A group of Rincon residents challenge the outcome of the annexation vote with a lawsuit. Heal the Ocean hires Santa Monica attorney Fred Woocher to defend the vote in Ventura Superior Court. After reviewing and recounting all ballots cast in the annexation vote (pictured above), the proponents of annexation win, and the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project is free to move forward.
  • Caltrans originally objected to the proposed route for the sewer line to the Rincon community (Caltrans proposed Alignment #5 pictured above in yellow would have sunk the project). With help from Assemblyman Das Williams, Caltrans approves a more direct route, the Rincon permit is approved, and the project is given the go-ahead.
  • While the legal battles raged on at Rincon, the other communities of Sandyland and Sand Point were completed in May 2012. With Padaro Lane having hooked up already, over 80 septic systems had now been removed from the Santa Barbara coastline.
  • Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser joins Rincon homeowners, state and local officials, surfers, and members of the Carpinteria Sanitary District Board of Directors for a joyful groundbreaking of the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project.
  • On Hillary Hauser's 70th birthday, September 4, 2014, the Carpinteria Sanitary District signs off on construction contracts with Tierra Contracting and Travis Agricultural Construction, signaling the successful conclusion of the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project fifteen years after it started.


  • On January 19, 2015, Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser accepts a Commendation from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in recognition of the great success of Heal the Ocean and our supporters in working with the Carpinteria Sanitary District in completing the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project.

    The success of this project is shared by all of our supporters, and for those who couldn't be there with us to receive this Commendation, click on the audio below of Regional Water Board Member Jeffrey Young reading the Resolution, which states:

    “Whereas without Hillary Hauser and Heal the Ocean’s commitment to clean water and incredible drive, leadership, and perseverance to seeing the Rincon and the other local beach communities sewered, and the vital role played by the Carpinteria Sanitary District, which stayed steady through this difficult and expensive process, and recognizing the steadfastness of the Rincon homeowners who held fundraising drives to help cover Heal the Ocean’s tremendous legal expenses and cash outlays, this incredible accomplishment might not have come to fruition. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board hereby commends and thanks Heal the Ocean and all of the numerous helpers and supporters that made this effort such a memorable success.”

Thank you to all of our supporters who stuck with us throughout this incredible saga…your energy and spirit made possible the protection of these treasured beaches for decades to come.

Read more about the Rincon portion of the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project in our Rincon Special Edition NewsletteR:

Santa Barbara Doggy Bag Program

In 2010, when Heal the Ocean learned that dog bag dispensers would no longer be stocked by Santa Barbara County due to a sweeping budget cut, we stepped forward to offer our help. We established a partnership with the County wherein Heal the Ocean would help raise funds to restock dog bag dispensers at beaches and parks from Rincon to Goleta.

As a part of Heal the Ocean's Doggie Bag Program, we offer advertising sponsorships on dog bag dispensers at beaches and parks throughout the County, and we fund raise from our beloved dog owning supporters, in order to support restocking these dispensers with biodegradable dog bags. The response to this program has been dog-gone wonderful!

You can help in cleaning up our beaches by supporting Heal the Ocean's Beach Doggy Bag Program!

A $60 donation funds 1,500 biodegradable doggie bags. Please be sure to send a picture of your dog with your donation so they can be included in this year's addition of Heal the Ocean's "Great Dog Show."

Please contact our office at 805-965-7570 for sponsorship opportunities.

Assembly Bill No. 885

HTO was instrumental in getting AB 885- septic system regulations for California – off the shelf and into action by joining with Heal the Bay in filing a “friendly” lawsuit vs. the State Water Resources Control Board – to formulate regulations under the law. HTO traveled to Sacromento for over a year, joining with EHS directors from around the state to work on language for this law, and mediating between factions that might have erupted into a fight and had the the thing on the shelf again.

As written AB 885 made provisions for the formation of Local Area Management Plans (LAMPs) for regulating septic systems within individual counties. HTO took a seat pm the SBN County Environmental Health Services steering committee which worked over a year to formulate the provisions of the LAMP (before the LAMP was ratified, HTO met with the Regional Board on a number of occasions to toughen up the language).

Santa Barbara County Local Agency Management Program

After years of effort, Heal the Ocean succeeded in helping gain approval to septic system regulations for the County of Santa Barbara, establishing an important tool for regulators to clean up faulty, polluting septic systems.

The new regulations, set forth in the County's "Local Agency Management Program" (LAMP), establish requirements for the operation and installation of new and existing septic systems, conditions for upgrade to supplemental treatment, and a new program to address groundwater pollution from faulty systems. The newly adopted program had its birth under Assembly Bill 885, drafted by then-Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson in 1999.

Heal the Ocean participated in the process of developing these regulations for over a year and provided input at a key stage, which led to the adoption of one of the first programs in the state tailored to address groundwater pollution specifically from septic systems.

You can read the entire text of the regulations through our website.

Key Milestones

  • The California Water Quality Control Policy for Siting, Design, Operation and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS Policy) goes into effect in May 2013 and starts the clock on a 2016 deadline for all counties in California to adopt their own "Local Agency Management Program," or else default to the policy's more restrictive Tier 1 standards.

    Please visit our OWTS Policy page to learn more about our role in winning approval of these regulations.

  • Santa Barbara County staff initiates a stakeholder process consisting of professional engineers, septic pumpers, the real estate community, and other interested individuals, to develop the County's own Local Agency Management Program.

    Heal the Ocean participates in this process with the other stakeholders and staff for over a year to develop the new regulations.

  • In anticipation of a August 1, 2014 Central Coast Regional Water Board hearing on the County’s LAMP, Heal the Ocean submits comments outlining our outstanding concerns with the near-finished LAMP. We specifically identify the absence of specific policies aimed at addressing existing, polluting septic systems.

    In response to our input, the members of the Regional Water Board direct staff to develop an approach on how best to proceed in protecting groundwater resources from septic systems.

  • The Regional Water Board sends a letter to the County of Santa Barbara advising that the Local Agency Management Program should include policies to address septic systems in "problematic areas" due to high septic failure rates and groundwater pollution from septic systems.

  • County staff, the Regional Water Board, Heal the Ocean, and the other Local Agency Management Program Advisory Committee members hold a meeting that establishes a framework to give the County authority to implement appropriate management policies in areas where the Regional Water Board designates a groundwater basin as impaired due to pollution from septic systems.

    This new language is included in Section V of the Local Agency Management Program in the form of an "Advanced Groundwater Protection Management Program."

  • On November 20, 2015, after years of effort, Heal the Ocean succeeds in helping win the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval of Santa Barbara County’s plan to regulate septic systems in its jurisdiction.

    In approving the LAMP, the Regional Water Board's Resolution No. R3-2015-0037 includes specific language expressing the Board's intent "develop and implement a process to designate groundwater bodies as impaired or significantly degraded."

Thank you to all of the individuals that helped make Heal the Ocean's successful 15-year drive on behalf of septic system regulations in the County possible. From its origins with Assembly Bill 885 to the now adopted Local Agency Management Program, this is a significant step forward for our coastline.

Santa Barbara Stormwater Permits

Heal the Ocean has successfully fought for tougher provisions in stormwater permits in areas across Santa Barbara County to better protect the health and safety of ocean swimmers and surfers from polluted urban runoff.

You can explore the entire library of our advocacy on Storm Water programs in the the Santa Barbara region in our Research section, or view a few of our most notable efforts:

Comments to the County of Santa Barbara on its draft Storm Water Management Program

Comments to the City of Santa Barbara on its draft Storm Water Management Plan

Comments on the City of Carpinteria's draft Storm Water Management Plan

Comments to the City of Santa Maria on its draft Storm Water Management Plan

Comments on the City of Goleta's draft Storm Water Management Plan

South Coast Recycled Water Development Plan

Heal the Ocean successfully brought together water and wastewater managers from across the Santa Barbara County South Coast to complete this $100k year-long project, which investigated potential projects to increase recycled water use in the region.

As a part of our "Waste(d)water" campaign to reduce discharges of wastewater to the ocean through the increased beneficial use of recycled water, Heal the Ocean helped organize this project with water and wastewater managers in the region through the Integrated Regional Water Management process. The plan covers the entire Santa Barbara County south coast, from Goleta to Carpinteria, and identifies additional recycled water customers, the financial costs to treat and deliver tertiary recycled water, and the benefits and barriers to additional recycled water use.

Download and read the study to learn more.