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Goleta Beach closes after water testing shows dangerous bacteria levels following massive sewage spill

GOLETA, Calif.—One million gallons of sewage spilled out of a damaged sewer line near the Santa Barbara Airport through the Goleta slough and into the ocean. 

“I've lived here for a long time. I've never seen I've never seen a sewage spill like this now. So, yeah, very surprised. It's kind of disheartening, you know. But I'm glad they got it. They caught it and stopped it,” said Goleta resident Andy Toohey.

The sewer line has been repaired but Goleta Beach could remain closed for another few weeks. 

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is regularly conducting water testing to see when it will be safe for people to go back into the water. 

“The initial sampling that we've done basically does indicate that there's elevated levels of bacteria, fecal indicator bacteria in the water that could increase the risk of illness if someone was to go into the water and swim right now. So we're continuing to monitor that,” said the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s Environmental Health Services Director Lars Seifert.

Health officials say there is no way to remove the million gallons of sewage that spilled. 

Rather, it’s a matter of waiting to see when those high bacteria levels drop. 

“Sewage once it reaches the ocean, basically will degrade in the ocean environment. And so right now, we're basically waiting for that dilution, that dissipation, that degradation from like the sun, from the saltwater. And those bacteria that we're concerned about for human health will die off naturally in the ocean,” said Seifert.

County Health will do a third follow up test on Friday.

They say they will have a better idea of when the beach will reopen in a couple of weeks. 

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Mina Wahab

Arab-American producer & reporter with a mission to dig deep in interviews, share authentically, shed light on the issues that matter, and provoke deep thought.


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