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Blue Water, Brown Death

Airborne: A surfer pops out of a wave with energy to spare.

Photo by Christopher Gardner

Storm runoff dumps more
than fish in the sea

By Bob Hansen

IN ADDITION TO sharks, locals, rocks and monster waves, the water itself can be hazardous to surfers. The bacteria level of "near shore" ocean water around Santa Cruz often soars above what state officials consider healthful for human contact--especially after major winter storms, when the rivers that flow into the bay carry raw sewage from overflowing septic tanks and treatment plants.

Volunteers with the Santa Cruz chapter of the Surfrider Foundation collect water samples from local beaches once a week. The samples are tested for fecal coliform levels at a local lab, and the results are posted on the POOP Hotline (476-POOP).

"We want to give the public this information so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to surf," said the Surfrider's "Salt Water Sally" Smith.

If you find the waves too hard to resist on one of the high-level days, Smith advises that you shower off afterwards and wash out any open cuts with hydrogen peroxide.

According to Smith, symptoms of a bad-water encounter include diarrhea, nausea, stuffy nose and staph infections. She encourages anyone who experiences any of these symptoms to notify the county health department and tell them where you surfed.

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From the February 20-26, 1997 issue of Metro

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Copyright © 1997 Metro Publishing, Inc.

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