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In this E-Letter:

  • Chumash Recycled Water Helps Firefighters
  • West Santa Ynez Votes in Septic-to-Sewer Project! 
  • Big Financial Boost from the Manitou Fund Helps HTO Push for Faster Cleanup of Summerland Oil Mess
  • HTO Investigates Dirty Water Sample from Miramar Beach
  • HTO Office Ramblings
  • New Website!
With the Rey Fire moving into the Santa Ynez River watershed and posing a serious threat to the remaining water supplies of Lake Cachuma, Gibraltar Lake and the Santa Ynez River itself,  the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has come to the rescue with its supply of recycled water.  The Chumash recycled water plant is supplying up to 50,000 gallons of water a day to local firefighters, for dust control at the Incident Command Center at Live Oak Campground as well as on the Santa Ynez Airport helipads where fire-fighting helicopters operate. The recycled water can also be used for fire suppression. Read the Chumash Tribe's full announcement here

The Tribe has used recycled water in its hotel and casino operations for 12 years, with its wastewater treatment plant servicing the reservation, including the Chumash Casino Resort, tribal government facilities and tribal homes. It is the only plant in the county utilizing its recycled water in this capacity.  In December 2015, HTO approached Tribe officialsto develop a plan to upgrade and expand the Chumash recycled water plant, with Dudek Environmental Engineering. Facilities planning is now underway in cooperation with the Santa Ynez Community Services District (SYCSD), which manages the production of recycled water from wastewater
Santa Barbara County can thank the Chumash Tribe for supplying water to provide this important service for the firefighters. Thank you, Chumash!
On September 1, when Heal the Ocean learned that homeowners of a West Santa Ynez area successfully voted to annex to the Santa Ynez Community Services District (SYCSD), we sent up a cheer! The annexed area (which includes Horizon Drive & Stadium Way) has 383 parcels, with hundreds of septic systems on crowded lots and unsuitable soils. With levels of nitrates steadily rising in the groundwater beneath, this West Santa Ynez area has been included in the list of County-designated "problem areas" for septic systems and is regulated by the Local Area Management Plan (LAMP) administered by the County Environmental Health Services (EHS).
Jeff Hodge, general manager of SYCSD, has sent written communication to homeowners that they do NOT have to automatically hook up to sewer - but that when their septic system fails, they will have a much less expensive alternative than installing an advanced system (which costs over $40K), as required by the LAMP.
Heal the Ocean has been working on the septic pollution problems of the Santa Ynez area since 2001, making input into the Santa Ynez General Plan and holding town hall meetings about how septic systems are impacting groundwater. We worked on AB 885 language regulating septic systems throughout the state, and we served on the EHS-led steering committee to formulate language for the LAMP. To help move the West Santa Ynez project along, HTO facilitated a partnership between the SYCSD and Santa Barbara County EHS for the funding of a $150,000 engineering plan to build the sewer system.

Thanks to the generous help of The Manitou Fund, Nora McNeely Hurley  and her husband Michael, Heal the Ocean is working with various agencies and contractors to figure out how to speed up the cleanup of the entire mess of the Summerland oil field. Thanks to SB 900 (Hannah-Beth Jackson/Das Williams), there is now $1-2 million per year for the State to spend on cleaning up abandoned oil wells along the entire California Coast. The worst leaking oil well in Summerland, the Onshore Becker Well, will be the first one to get cleaned up with funding from this legislation. The State Lands Commission estimates that construction on Becker will start mid-2017.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study will focus on all uncapped oil hazards along the California coast, including the Becker Well. Since there are many such hazards along the CA coast, it could be a long time after the Becker Well project is completed before further remediation is done in Summerland. Nora McNeely Hurley contacted HTO in despair over the slow pace of cleanup of the Summerland beachfront. Not only is an intensely fouled beach fronting their community, residents living above the beach breathe hydrocarbons and their dogs come home covered in oil.
HTO is consulting with a major offshore oil contractor, AQUEOS-Subsea, about the possibility of an updated underwater sonar survey of the entire oil field area. We are also researching past documentation of surveys and investigations of the problem. Some abandoned wells have been capped (including 3 wells in 1993 that significantly improved water quality on Summerland Beach for a time). However, in 1994, the US Coast Guard conducted a survey identifying 43 potential sites for further investigation and there is no documentation of any follow-up on these 43 potential sites, other than this number was narrowed to seven sites, which the Coast Guard report said required further attention. We have not found any documentation on any monitoring or excavation being done on these seven sites.

HTO thanks The Manitou Fund for its generous financial help that enables us to do all we can to speed up the remediation of the Summerland oil mess. We agree with Summerland residents who feel mid-2017 is too slow for the many people impacted by this pollution. We also believe it isn't just the Becker Offshore Well that’s contributing to the fouling of one of Santa Barbara County's most popular beaches.

On July 21, 2016, HTO supporter Brad Hall went paddling off Miramar Beach and found himself in a pool of muck just outside the surf line. He scooped up a jar of the water and called Heal the Ocean to see if we could investigate. HTO retrieved the sample, and within a matter of hours it was in the hands of FGL Analytical Laboratory. A little over 2 weeks later FGL returned this report, indicating that the water sample had high levels of TPH-DRO (C10-C28), TPH-ORO(C28-C40), o-terphenyl, motor oil, and diesel. HTO then hired consulting company, Blue Tomorrow, to interpret the FGL results. With more and more oil fouling beaches up and down the coast from the Summerland oil mess, the uncapped wells and oil leaks are prime suspects (to us and everybody else). Blue Tomorrow is in the process of making recommendations for source tracking, and meanwhile, HTO is also conferring with AQUEOS-Subsea about the possibility of making a large-scale sonar survey of the Summerland area.  
Heal the Ocean is thrilled to welcome two new members – Alex Bennett and Laura Camp – to our team…and to announce that our own James Hawkins will be advising us from UC Berkeley as (roving) Policy Consultant!

Alex Bennett has joined the HTO staff as a Policy Associate, and is working with us on new and existing projects and research. Alex grew up in Carmel, California, and became interested in water resources while watching the often heated debates over the management of the Carmel River and city water supply. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Environmental Studies, Alex moved to Santa Barbara and earned his Masters degree from Bren School, UCSB, in Environmental Science & Management with a specialization in Water Resources Management.

Laura Camp has joined us as a Public Outreach Coordinator, joining Ruston Slager in representing HTO at public events like Earth Day and the Harbor Festival - (and our own events!). Laura is passionate about water issues based on her interests at home and her experiences living and traveling in Africa, Europe, Indonesia, North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean.

Many thanks to Ava Schulenberg for the excellent job she did as an intern at Heal the Ocean this summer! In particular, she performed the miracle of organizing Hillary's files.

Finally, HTO's former Policy Analyst, James Hawkins, who is now in a graduate program at UC Berkeley focusing on Public Policy, is staying on as HTO's "roving consultant," advising us on water policy matters he worked on while on staff. James is on-call to help with his expertise on wastewater and reuse in Santa Barbara and is continuing HTO's work with the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) on an inventory of all wastewater discharged into the ocean along the CA coast that could be recycled. This report, which will be posted statewide, is due to be completed in October 2016.

HTO's annual celebration "A REALLY BIG SHOW" at the El Paseo Restaurant, Santa Barbara, on October 22, 2016 is selling fast! Today, individual tickets are being released, so click here to purchase one. A few sponsored tables are left, too. This will be a great night, celebrating HTO's work and successes, and featuring Marilyn Monroe and Liza Minnelli played by the same singer/actress (Gaylin Addis) and Frank Sinatra as interpreted and sung by Monty Aidem. Don't miss this bestest party of the year!
We've redesigned again - and this time we think we have the best website in our history! THANK YOU Corey Radis, HTO Operations Coordinator, THANK YOU Oniracom! And last but not least, thank you to our dear friend and supporter Marie Morrisroe, for providing the surprise (miraculous!) funds to pay for our upgrade. Thanks to ALL!

Check out our new website here:


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