HTO Blog


Photo by Branden Aroyan

Photo by Branden Aroyan

Advisory Board member/underwater filmmaker Harry Rabin (center) has been hired by InterAct, the project management and engineering firm working with SLC on the Summerland oil problem – for drone photography work with the InterAct team (Mike Giuliani (Left) and Eric Kroh (right) to identify the next well or wells to be capped in the Summerland leaking oil mess.

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The Hannah-Beth Jackson AB 44 $2 million per year funding is there, but lately, the oil seems to be spewing from a number of different sources: Treadwell (above), followed by "Ohlssens"...

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Oil leaks as of May 1, 2019 off Summerland Beach (All photos by Harry Rabin)

Oil leaks as of May 1, 2019 off Summerland Beach (All photos by Harry Rabin)

Harry and the InterAct team are waiting for the arrival of an underwater ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) to pinpoint the leak(s) that could be effectively stopped, and are aiming for a plan to make the budget time for $2 million contract work.


Photo by Branden Aroyan

Photo by Branden Aroyan

After nearly two years of establishing a working relationship with Union Pacific Railroad, Heal the Ocean organized, with the Railroad, the cleanup on Friday, April 26, 2019, of an abandoned homeless encampment on the seaside cliffs in Summerland.

Our intrepid Advisory Board member/ former Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson, who maintains communication with fire officials about any hazards posed by homeless encampments, happened upon the Friday clean-up scene just as the work train-truck arrived with massive equipment.

Photo by Eric Peterson

Photo by Eric Peterson

The cleanup required cranes to lift the heavy materials up the cliff and into the waiting train-truck.

Photo by Branden Aroyan

Photo by Branden Aroyan

May 2, 2019: After the Railroad cleanup (Photo by Harry Rabin)

May 2, 2019: After the Railroad cleanup (Photo by Harry Rabin)


Rinaldo Brutoco hosting Solutions News (KZSB 1290AM)

Rinaldo Brutoco hosting Solutions News (KZSB 1290AM)

Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser was featured onSolutions News Radio on Friday, March 29, 2019, in a lively discussion withWorld Business Academy (WBA) Founder/Director Rinaldo Brutoco and Kristina Jansen, Chief of Staff/Producer of Solution News Radio.

On the Friday session, Hillary and Rinaldo discussed the positive and negative consequences of converting decommissioned oil platform foundations as "rigs to reefs" in the ocean off the Santa Barbara coast.

Click here to listen to the interview now.

Solutions News is a new weekly radio talk show that discusses solutions to local, national, and global problems to give people optimism concerning solutions for the future. Rinaldo Brutuco is the Founding President of the World Business Academy (Founded in 1987).  He is an economics and business expert specializing in energy policy, renewable energy, finance, innovation, and the causes of, and adaptation strategies for, climate change. 



Heal the Ocean spent much time working with environmental health directors from around the state in Sacramento meetings to craft language for AB 885 septic regulations, written into law by then-assemblymember (now state Senator) Hannah-Beth Jackson in the year 2000. It was difficultbusiness, because Malibu is different from Mojave, and San Diego is not the Russian River, and so on. But with the consulting help of former Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Director Rick Merrifield (who is now on HTO’s Advisory Board), we and Heal the Bay, Santa Monica wereable to make input into language that was acceptable to all, and the regulations went into effect in June 2012.

For over a year we have been seeking AB885 compliance on a number of non-compliant septic system owners in a listed 303(d) impaired area in the Santa Barbara south coast, where septic systems have been identified as contributing to pollution issues in nearby water bodies (ocean and creek). We thank the Los Angeles Regional Water Control Board for following through on the AB 885 mandate with enforcement notices.*

*Notices have been heavily redacted to delete confidential information.


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On April 16, 2019, the Santa Barbara City Council will act on the city Water Commission's recommendation that the El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant be renamed El Estero Water Resource Center. As a result of HTO’s recommendation during the Water Commission’s February 15, 2018 meeting, the name change was approved by the Commission on March 28,2019 and will next be taken  up by City Council. The name change reflects the expanded role of wastewater management, in that the facilities have a much larger role than in the past in relation to recovering water resources and protecting the environment. The Goleta Sanitary District changed its name to Goleta Sanitary Water Resource Recovery District last year and together with the Goleta Water District are recycling water for landscape irrigation to the tune of saving up to 300 million gallons of potable water annually.


Wendy Pelayo/Photo by Hillary Hauser

Wendy Pelayo/Photo by Hillary Hauser

Heal the Ocean welcomes Wendy Pelayo to our team as Operations Intern! In two short weeks, this wonder-woman has produced an immense amount of work that has helped us move forward on many fronts. Wendy, a third-year undergraduate student in Environmental Studies at UCSB, is responsible for assisting with research projects, administrative duties, and supports HTO social media work. We're glad to have her with us!


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Photos from Harry Rabin.

Photos from Harry Rabin.

In mid-March, 2019, State Lands Commission petroleum drilling engineer Steve Curran called HTO to report that funds from state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s SB 44 legislation were being used to clear the rusty hazards from Haskell’s Beach, which fronts the oceanfront Bacara Resort. HTO Advisory Board member (and hard worker!) Harry Rabin documented the work with aerial drone and still photography.


Treadwell from the air, March 22, 2019 (Photo by Harry Rabin/On the Wave Productions)

Treadwell from the air, March 22, 2019 (Photo by Harry Rabin/On the Wave Productions)

Heal the Ocean is so very happy to announce that the notorious Treadwell oil well which is actively spewing oil into the ocean off Summerland Beach, will be capped this summer. We thank State Lands Commission (SLC) petroleum drilling engineer Steve Curran for working closely with us to get this project rolling, and for putting us together with Mike Giuliani andErik Kroh of InterAct Engineering, Ventura, which has been contracted by State Lands to get the capping project underway. HTO also thanks Nora McNeely-Hurley, who keeps a watch on the water from her Summerland seaside home, letting us know when new oil messes appear on the surface, and lately, there has been a LOT from Treadwell.


EF International Students on East Beach, Santa Barbara

EF International Students on East Beach, Santa Barbara

EF International Language School, Santa Barbara, has joined hands with HTO for the fourth year in a row to celebrate Earth Day in a massive coastal cleanup scheduled for April 12, 2019.

The EF/HTO model has been picked up by EF San Diego and EF Honolulu, and on that same day in April, hundreds of students will be hitting the beaches in these locations too!

EF Santa Barbara School Director Kristen Reilly says it is the school’s vision to further introduce the beach cleanup model to other EF schools on the U.S. west coast, including campuses in San Francisco and Seattle. The project is part of the school's Ocean & Environmental Awareness campaign entitled “EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY.”

For the Santa Barbara event, all 300 students from the EF campus on Chapala Street will spread out to clean up ten South Coast beaches from Summerland to Goleta, while in Hawaii, EF Honolulu will be working on its coastline with Hawaii-based Kokua Hawaii Foundation (founded by Kim and Jack Johnson). In San Diego, EF San Diego will tackle San Diego beaches, partnering with the Adopt-A-Beach Program, funded by the California Coastal Commission’s Whale Tail Grand and run by I Love a Clean San Diego (ILACSD) of San Diego County.

EF International/HTO Beach Cleanup Program Hits Honolulu with Kokua Hawaii Foundation

EF International Students on East Beach, Santa Barbara

EF International Students on East Beach, Santa Barbara

The Kokua Hawaii Foundation, the brainchild of Kim (and Jack) Johnson, has thrown its hat into the EF International Language School signature program of massive beach cleanups, following the EF/HTO model of involving many students at one time in tackling a coastal area to pick up what doesn't belong on the beach. EF International's Honolulu campus will join with Kokua for such work in Hawaii, while in Santa Barbara, EF International and HTO are preparing for their fourth annual cleanup of South County beaches on April 12, 2019. EF International, which has campuses around the world, has a large student body in Santa Barbara – 300 students - who will spread out to work on Santa Barbara beaches on this day, with HTO speaking to the student body about the importance of the EF motto, “Every Day is Earth Day.”

Sewer Lateral Backed Up, Leaking?

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HTO has long worked on the problem of leaking sewer laterals, which, if faulty (or even non-existent), can back up wastewater into the house, leak into the ground/groundwater, and cause other environmental problems. Years ago, we worked with the City of Santa Barbara to create an annual fund to help homeowners pay for inspection and repair, but after a number of successful years (and the annual fund growing from $200k to $900k per year), those funds dried up. Therefore, we welcome the news that the City is ramping up another program for sewer lateral inspection and repair. City Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark explains that leaking laterals not only pollute the ground but when they are "roto-rooted" due to tree roots reaching into cracks in the lateral and plugging up wastewater flow, a big clump of roots wind up jamming wastewater works at the plant.  

On this note, former City of Santa Barbara Wastewater Manager Lisa Arroyo has created a sewer lateral service that can fix faulty lateral-pipes with a trenchless method that makes for less mess and expense.

Headquartered in Goleta, Arroyo Trenchless is a licensed general engineering contracting company that focuses on trenchless construction methods to repair, rehabilitate, replace and/or install new underground infrastructure.  The company has a state-of-the-art "sewer trailer" with equipment to perform sewer lateral rehabilitation, spot line repairs, inspection, and cleaning.  Lisa Arroyo, President of Arroyo Trenchless, is a licensed civil engineer and certified by the National Association of Sanitary Sewer Organization (NASSCO) in its Pipeline Assessment Condition Programs. If you are experiencing numerous calls to Roto-Rooter services to free up your pipes (often needed when it rains!), please visit Arroyo Trenchless on its website at or call (805) 699-1717 to learn more about its services. You'll be doing a big service to the ground and groundwater--which all goes to the ocean!

SB 332 Aims to Cut Wastewater Disposal Into California Ocean & Estuaries

James Hawkins, MMP (HTO Advisory Board Member) and his Inventory of California Wastewater Discharge.

James Hawkins, MMP (HTO Advisory Board Member) and his Inventory of California Wastewater Discharge.

A study published by Heal the Ocean, Santa Barbara, has been credited as a compelling factor in a Senate bill introduced in February 2019, that would require huge reductions in the volume of treated wastewater discharged into the Pacific Ocean and California estuaries.
SB 332, the Local Water Reliability Act, calls on wastewater treatment facilities to step up recycling, conservation, and efficiency to meet reduction targets of 50 percent by 2030 and 95 percent by 2040 for the amount of waste(d)water dumped into the ocean and other water bodies.
In announcing the introduction of SB 332, its authors, Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), cited the amount of waste(d) water going into the ocean based on the groundbreaking studyInventory of Municipal Wastewater Discharges to California Coastal Waters, authored by former HTO Policy Analyst (and now Advisory Board member) James Hawkins, MPP, and published by Heal the Ocean in September 2018.
As reported in the Los Angeles Daily News on February 20, 2019, SB 332 is expected to start the Senate committee review process next month, in April 2019.
Heal the Ocean will be participating in that review process, with our chief concern being that the higher recycling goals would produce an inordinate amount of toxic brine waste, for which there is no feasible technology for disposal. Wastewater plants cannot exceed pollution limits in their discharge permits. The problem of brine waste has been examined by Heal the Ocean in its report, Brine Waste: Issues, Disposal, and Reduction, which presents facts that mean SB 332 may be unattainable as written.

Shocking New Truth About Recycling Creates 4th Action Plan: "REFUSE"

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"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has become a mantra around the country, and most cities have instituted curbside pickup for plastics, cardboard, and other recyclables.
But an alarming article recently published in The Atlantic explains how recycling facilities are having a hard time keeping up with the amount of waste they receive--China no longer accepts America's waste, recycled or not. Even eco-cities like San Francisco are having a problem with what to do with waste.

The ultimate answer is to reduce the amount of waste you produce by buying less--way less.
In response to this problem, zero-waste communities have sprung up around the U.S.  According to National Geographic, there are uber-conscious citizens producing just ONE JAR of unrecyclable waste per year--even every two years! Individuals and families alike have demonstrated it's possible to reduce their annual trash pile to fit in one eight-ounce Mason jar, compared to the average American's yearly trash pile weighing 1,500 pounds. 
With Americans producing the most trash of all countries - it is time tostart thinking about getting longer use out of what we already have. Do we really need a new phone every year? Do we need to buy that new car, a new television? Can we not take a little glassware to a restaurant for leftovers?
Everyone can play a significant role in eliminating garbage from ever reaching the ocean by adopting the motto, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle--and REFUSE. Refuse to buy, and use what you have.

  • Reduce your plastic footprint by cutting down on your use of goods that come in excessive plastic;

  • Reuse plastics, bags, and other items that you have, and when you can, reuse materials like glass, stainless steel, and wood that have longer lifetimes for use.

  • Lastly, properly recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce, and reuse.

Planning Next Move on Summerland Oil

Photo/graphics by Harry Rabin

Photo/graphics by Harry Rabin

As the State Lands Commission (SLC) moves toward its June/July planning for the capping of the next leaking Summerland oil wells, HTO Advisory Board members Harry Rabin and Nora McNeely-Hurley are putting their heads together on what they are observing by drone (Rabin) and daily observation (McNeely-Hurley). Rabin, who is in contact with State Lands officials about what he is seeing by drone, is also communicating with a UCSB researcher who is able to scientifically identify spilled oil with its source(s). The above image shows how Rabin is working to pinpoint locations, and with Nora McNeely-Hurley's generous offer of financial help from her family foundation, Manitou, for science help, HTO's hope is that their diligent work will help SLC plan out the contracting work that is to come.

New Addition to HTO Advisory Board: Retired County Fire Chief Eric Peterson


Eric Peterson

With bells and sirens, Heal the Ocean also welcomes Santa Barbara County Fire Chief (ret) Eric Peterson, to Heal the Ocean's Advisory Board. Peterson had been with County Fire for 32 years before he retired in 2018, making him a veteran of the Painted Cave, Zaca, Tea, Jesusita, Gap, Sherpa, Alamo, Rey, Whittier, Thomas, and Holiday Fires. With fire being the "new normal" for California, environmental issues come up for the handling of these disasters, and Eric Peterson's skill, leadership, and experience will help us with no-nonsense environmental decision-making on these issues. Thank you, Eric!

Former EHS Director Rick Merrifield Joins HTO Advisory Board

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Rick Merrifield

Heal the Ocean is proud to announce that Rick Merrifield, former director of Santa Barbara County’s Environmental Health Services, has joined our Advisory Board - and has already begun important work to help as a consultant on septic system issues. During his tenure as EHS director, Rick worked closely with HTO for years on septic pollution problems, including the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer Project. Most notably, Rick came to our rescue as we muddled through with Heal the Bay, Santa Monica, the difficult process of working with State Water Resources Control Board staff in crafting language for AB 885 – septic system regulations for the State of California. His input was a major contributor to the adoption of AB 885 regulations in June 2012.

Rick is presently helping HTO with his expert edit of the HTO-sponsored Groundwater Characterization Project: Santa Ynez River Valley Groundwater Basin report, which has been stuck in the review process at the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for too long (in our estimation). The report is needed to gauge septic system pollution of the Santa Ynez Valley groundwater basin, with suspected sources including Los Olivos, Janin Acres, and Ballard. Rick's edits and comments have been sent to the Regional Board with our request for action.

State Lands Commission Tackling Hazards at Haskell's Beach


Haskell's Beach, photo by Steve Curran

State Lands Commission Petroleum drilling engineer Steve Curran sent a picture to Heal the Ocean this week that shows the rusty, hazardous pilings now being removed from Haskell's Beach, adjacent to the Bacara Resort. The removal is being done with funding from Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson's Senate Bill 44, which takes in coastal hazards removal as well ascapping of abandoned, leaking oil wells. Curran is in the Santa Barbara area every week, planning the next oil-capping operations for Summerland beach as well as overseeing the decommissioning of old wells on Rincon Island, a 2.3-acre artificial island located off Mussel Shoals in Ventura County. Thank you, Steve!

20 Years of HTO Work, & Finally! Garden Street/101 Freeway Gets a Clean-Up Order

Left: Garden Street/101 Property // Right: Pollutants oozing out of 101 South onramp

In 1999, during the earliest days of HTO, someone came into our office with a vial of putrid water collected from the wall of the 101 freeway south onramp at Garden Street. We had it tested – and the bacterial readings were off the charts. 
HTO chased this issue for years and were led astray by many City, County, and State officials, who said this area only consisted of a wood-mulching company. Our petition to the Regional Water Quality Control Board merely led the owner of the mulching company having to cover the area with tarps during a rain.
HTO chased this issue for years, going through City boring records, County Environmental Health services records, Santa Barbara News-Pressmicrofiche records. We were determined that one cannot cover up a landfill with dirt and leave. It has to monitored, capped, controlled, dug up – remediated. The polluted groundwater beneath this site spreads, and it spreads to the ocean.
Finally, this property came before the City Planning Commission in January 2016 for approval of a magnificent plaza project, designed by celebrated architect Brian Cearnal. HTO went to this meeting and praised the project, because, we said to the Commission, it was an opportunity to clean up the mess underneath. The Commission agreed with us, and Brian Cearnal came to HTO offices to discuss a remedy. At this point Santa Barbara County Public Health Site Mitigation (SMU) officials became involved. 
So now, twenty years after HTO started sleuthing on this issue, on January 28, 2019, we received a copy of a cleanup directive from Santa Barbara County Public Health to the owner of this property. It is comprehensive - and it states (in Section 11) that the site must be cleaned up whether it is developed or not. Heal the Ocean hopes that the site will be cleaned up such that Brian Cearnal great vision for this property can be realized.

In Water Negotiation with Montecito, the City of Santa Barbara Moves Towards 'One' Water

Cater Treatment Plant

Cater Treatment Plant

On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, in its negotiations with the Montecito Water District to supply water to Montecito, the Santa Barbara City Council heard from staff about the Governing Principles of the agreement. The City Council will consider its approval during a City Council meeting in spring 2019.

Heal the Ocean was thrilled to learn that one of the Governing Principles of such agreement is that the City shall have the right to supply Montecito from the City potable water supply system as a whole. (Emphasis ours.) This means the water available to Montecito could come from "One Water"- Cachuma, Gibraltar, State Water, and potable reuse water - as well as (and not only) from the desalination plant.

The City has long been waiting for the State to finalize its Potable Reuse Standards, the new deadline of which is 2023 - four years from now. In theOne Water scenario, the potable reuse water would be sent to the William B. Cater Water Treatment Plant, which currently treats raw water received from Gibraltar and Cachuma to drinking water standards, and adding desaland potable reuse to this mix would require less desal water to supply both the City and Montecito.

The agreement with Montecito, however, requires the City Desalination Plant to be able to increase production by 1,430 Acre Feet Per Year (AFY) as a guarantee. (The city currently produces 3,125 AFY for its own use.) Thispotential increase in production does not mean it will fully take place, because the water for Montecito is from the City Potable water supply as a whole.

An analogy is an insurance policy on a house. Let's say the structure is insured for $500,000 - but if a fire breaks out in the garage, the homeowner is reimbursed just the amount of damages, not the full $500,000.

HTO has been working long and hard to promote recycled water, which has included pressuring the State Water Board to move forward on developing standards for Potable Reuse. (Please see James Hawkins report “Inventory of Municipal Wastewater Discharges to California Coastal Waters”). We are all for One Water!

An added note: City Water rates will not increase. It is Montecito buying the water - and Montecito Water rates will increase as a result. It has been noted that the increase rates may encourage conservation.

Please write your City Councilmembers to approve of the Montecito/City agreement because it urges the City forward with developing its potable water supply!

Filmmaker Harry Rabin joins HTO Advisory Board

Harry Rabin

Harry Rabin

Film producer, writer, cinematographer and director Harry Rabin has joined Heal the Ocean's Advisory Board, lending us his invaluable hand with aerial drone work to assist State Lands work on the Summerland Oil Field cleanup. Harry is also beginning to work on a documentary, which includes some of Heal the Oceans success stories, and he helps us in achieving many of our goals to help our environment.

The founder of On the Wave Productions—Harry is a talented film producer with a passion for the ocean and marine life. He has worked on several projects with Mike deGruy, consulted for James Cameron's “Deepsea Challenge 3D”  and produced natural history shows aired worldwide as well as providing footage for other films like Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue documentary. 

Rabin works as an official advisor and liaison between universities, community and government entities like NOAA, USGS, UCSB's Bren and Marine Sciences Institution, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, California National Marine Sanctuary, WHOI, Monterey Bay Aquarium and more! He also serves as Producer and advisor to the prestigious Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences.

Welcome aboard Harry, we are thrilled to have your expertise and insight as we move forward!