Surfers Ring the Bell
- 3,500 signatures were gathered on a petition by CURE (Clean Up Rincon Effluent) and goes unheeded by Santa Barbara County;
- Surfers ask Hillary Hauser for help, to write something about the problem;
- “Another Day at the Beach” Santa Barbara News Press, August 9, 1998 created a public outcry and was the genesis of Heal the Ocean, which Hillary Hauser and Jeff Young formed on August 27, 1998.
Among the steps along the 15 year rocky road of the project, were the following:
- Carpinteria Sanitary District says the first step in the process to connect to public sewer is an engineering study for each homeowner group;
- Rincon Clean Water Classic surf contest and other surfers hold contests to raise funds for the studies;
- Rincon Point homeowners on-board (at least most of them);
- HTO writes a $9,000 check to fund the engineering feasibility study;
- HTO initiates DNA testing of Rincon Lagoon (HTO is the first environmental group in the U.S. to do DNA testing in the environment), works with SB County Environmental Health Services on the project;
- DNA tests confirm septic systems as a source of pollution.
For its work with the Carpinteria Sanitary District on the Rincon septic-to-sewer project, HTO received a Commendation from the Regional Water Quality Control Board on January 19, 2015, and commendations also came from the California State Senate and the County Board of Supervisors. The Regional Board Commendation was read by RQWCB Board member (and HTO Co-Founder) Jeff Young.
Heal the Ocean commissioned the Lower Rincon Beach Watershed Study to put an end to speculation regarding the sources of pollution at Rincon Point, a world-class surf spot. This study, prepared in partnership with the County of Santa Barbara Public Health Department and Project Clean Water, was one of the first in the nation to utilize DNA analysis in the environment to determine sources of fecal contamination (human or animal), and this study ultimately determined that human sources of pollution were contaminating Rincon Creek.
Septic systems in Santa Barbara County: the red blotches indicate septic "clusters," or areas of heavy use. The big blotch in the middle of the county is Los Olivos/Santa Ynez area. The south coast map shows heavy concentrations along the coast and in creek areas, with the biggest cluster (at the left end of the coast) being Hope Ranch. These maps were made by GeoDigitalMapping, Santa Barbara, a business owned by HTO Board Member John Robinson. Before these maps were made (in 1999), nobody knew who was on sewer and who was on septic systems. This digital mapping of wastewater treatment is now in common usage around the state of California. John Robinson Gifted Santa Barbara County with the first quadrant map, when it was completed, during a Board of Supervisors hearing in 1999.
Over 7 miles of beachfront is septic free- Rincon, Sand Point, Sandyland, Padaro Lane, and also various roads and lanes in the Montecito foothills. HTO continues to work with the City of Santa Barbara on implementing the West End Master Plan, which focuses on the septic "pockets" within the city.
In 2000, then-Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson captured $2 million in state funding for septic-to-sewer projects in Santa Barbara County, to be administered by County & Environmental Health Services (EHS). HTO worked closely with EHS on the description for allocating these funds. The first big step was the Questa Septic Systems Sanitary Survey for Santa Barbara County. This study has become the bible of septic work not only for Heal the Ocean, but County officials, too.
At the same time, then Assembly-member Hannah-Beth Jackson brought $2 million in to the County for septic work. She also authored AB 885 for the regulation of all septic systems in the State of California. Even though the bill passed in 2000, the numerous environmmetal health officers within the State, meeting in Sacramento, could not agree on language for the regulations under the bill. HTO attended numerous public hearings and meetings in Sacramento to seek common ground that would work for all.
Finally, in 2011 Heal the Ocean and Heal the Bay, Santa Monica, filed a “friendly lawsuit” vs. the State Water Board in to move the process forward on the development of standards. After many trips by Exec. Director Hillary Hauser, AB 885 regulations were adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board on June 19, 2012.
Under AB 885, counties are required to develop Local Agency Management Programs (LAMPs), to regulate septic systems. HTO participated in a stakeholder process, led by County staff, and consisting of engineers, septic pumpers, agricultural representatives, the real estate community, and others, to develop the County’s LAMP. The new regulations 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.
HTO helped facilitate a partnership between the Santa Ynez Community Services District (SYCSD) and Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services for $150,000 funding for an engineering plan to hook up sewer service for over 400 parcels in the West Santa Ynez area. With hundreds of septic systems on crowded lots and unsuitable soils, the level of nitrates is rising in groundwater. Currently HTO has hired a consultant to apply for a Proposition 1 Groundwater grant to help the homeowners pay for the $6 million project, reducing individual costs significantly.