Tuesday, December 29, 2009

EPA Video Contest!

Our Planet, Our Stuff, Our Choice Video Competition

Win up to $2500. Open to anyone 13 or older.

- Buying Green
- Recycling
- Reducing Your Consumption
- Composting

Submit your 30 or 60 second video between December 16th and February 16th 2010.

Contest details available on EPA's website.

Monday, December 7, 2009

BWTF, More Than Just Water Tests

In addition to providing valuable water quality information, the Newport Aquarium Youth Volunteers who perform the lab work for the Newort Chapter's water testing program are also committed to improving their local beach conditions. Each year, this youth group takes on a related project and/or water quality campaign. Last year they promoted Ocean Friendly Gardens on the Aquarium grounds. More here.

The Youth Volunteers have recently completed their planning session for this year's water testing BWTF program. I encourage any water testing program to go through a similar exercise to see how your volunteers can contribute to improving your favorite beaches.

A Strategy for Success

At Surfrider, we realize all of our projects, programs and campaigns come together with carefully thought out strategic plans. Being successful in our efforts relies on this type of planning and today, I had the pleasure of working with the youth volunteers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in such a process. This year marks our third annual Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation/Aquarium Youth Volunteer winter water quality project. We spent the better part of 2 hours today mapping out the strategies and tactics surrounding the kids' project goals and objectives. Nothing satisfies me more than seeing these kids succeed and using the necessary planning tools to get themselves there. Self-motivated - check, plan in place - check, victory influencing city council - check back again this spring! And just what are these kids up to you might ask. Click here for a hint from a similar project in Port Orford.

Newport Chapter Continuing to Push for Clean Water

The Newport Chapter has been using their water testing program very successfully to continue to keep awareness of pollution issues in their watershed elevated in their city. While improvements have been seen at their local beach, some problems still persist and Surfrider keeps asking for the City and her residents to do more to solve these issues. Two postings below taken from the Surfrider Oregon Blog.

Not Again Newport...we have come so far!

After nearly 2 years of sourcing out sewer misconnections, improving stormwater codes/best management practices, improving notification/postings and cutting down the beach advisories, we're back to a challenging point with sewer overflows at Nye Beach. It seems large volumes of stormwater have been infiltrating the sewer lines (those same lines we thought were inspected and had some pipe-bursting/relining done), resulting in some serious sewage overflows at Nye Beach. The local Blue Water Task Force has been getting readings off the chart, some of the highest we've seen at Nye Beach in our 10 years of testing. What can you do? Demand clean water, join us at the next council meeting (November 23). Note the picture at right and the nebulous "contaminated with...". We can do better!

Sewage at Nye Beach, Where do I come in?

The What
Over the course of the past 3 years, the Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has been working with the City of Newport to improve the Nye beach stormwater and sewer issues that have resulted in high bacteria counts at Nye Beach. While the sewage issues still occur (although less frequent...insert happy face), on occassions of intense rain, these issues may be linked to several problems as close as your backyard. And to that extent, the City of Newport issued some sixty letters to homeowners in the City of Newport to make some improvements for improper connections. Now let's break these issues down a little:

The Why
Bottom line, too much rain in the sewer. You see, these sewer overflows occur because the Nye Beach pump station can only take so much sewage at one time. While the pump station is well equipped to handle our sewer demands and multiple upgrades have occurred over the past few years, it can't handle excessive volumes of rainwater that enter the system. Now wait a second you may say, I thought we had separate systems for rain runoff (stormwater) and sewer lines! And yes, you are correct. The problem is there are places where rainwater can get into the sewer lines...some of them may be at yourhouse. That's right, some of the homes here in Newport have their downspouts from their homes connected to the sewer lines sending high volumes of rain to the system. Of course there are other places like manhole covers for sewer lines and old joints where saturated ground water can make it's way into the sewer system.

The You
The Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation is working with the City of Newport on strategies for improving infrastructure and sourcing other non-point sources (which will cover in a future post...as this also involves you). To date the City has been doing extensive source water quality testing up the urban watershed and smoke testing for proper sewer line connections. These tests have found sewer lines connected to storm drain lines sending untreated sewage directly to the beach through the stormwater outfall. They've found homes where small animals being raised are polluting Nye creek with there feces. They've found excessive dump spots for animal and human feces (literally bucket fulls!). And, they've found many homes with improper downspout connections to sewer lines sending rainwater into the sewer system. So, here's where you fit in, from simple to complex:

A) Engage with the Newport Chapter - come to a meeting, help with water quality monitoring...lots of opportunity, figure out what's right for you

B) Check your downspouts - make sure they are properly connected to the stormdrain (not the sewer line!) or if feasible, look into a rain barrel or downspout disconnection and rain garden - click here to learn a little more

C) Clean up! - Be sure and properly dispose of your pet waste...every little bit counts and can add up quickly in an urban watershed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Channelkeeper filling in gaps left by government beach testing


Photo by Paul Wellman

The Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation partners with the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper on a watershed water quality monitoring program.

Channelkeeper has also stepped up to the plate to provide much needed information on water quality during what the State considers to be the off-season. The County provides some funding to Channelkeeper to keep the testing going through the winter months, when there are at least as many surfers in the water as in the summer months, but this NGO implements this program with far less resources than they government is used to spending. Local media coverage below.

Poop Patrol

County Finances Nonprofit’s Water Monitoring

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ever since the state budget train wreck forced the county to pull the plug on its winter beach water testing program two summers ago, nonprofit organization Santa Barbara Channelkeeper has been picking up the slack. Providing a massive public service to the thousands of surfers and swimmers who play in the Pacific Ocean during the months of November through March, Channelkeeper has been conducting weekly water testing at a dozen area beaches and has been the lone source of bacteria level updates. However, in recent months, the Channelkeeper program also found itself in jeopardy of becoming a casualty of economic strife — that is, until this week. Thanks to a 4-0 vote by the county supervisors on Tuesday (4th District’s Joni Gray was absent), the county will once again be providing the cash for winter quality tests, though Channelkeeper will continue to do the heavy lifting by carrying out the tests and informing the public. “Plain and simple, this is a public health issue” opined the 5th District’s Joe Centeno before the vote was cast. “I think we would be remiss if we did not do this.”

While the State of California mandates that the county test its beaches during the summer months of April through October, it doesn’t require anything to happen for the rest of the year, despite the fact that the wet winter months are more likely to create water quality issues due to storm water runoff. As a result, in the summer of 2008, after the state cut funding for winter testing programs, the county decided to pull the plug on its monitoring program. Knowing that the winter months are a time of year that many local beachgoers — especially surfers — live for, Channelkeeper, in conjunction with the City of Santa Barbara Creeks Division, stepped in and started the once-weekly tests for indicator bacteria like E-coli coliform and Enterococcus.

From Refugio State Beach to Rincon Point, Channelkeeper staff and interns tested 12 beaches every Monday (with the city handling testing duties at East Beach, Leadbetter, and Arroyo Burro) and provided their findings to the public free of charge via local news media and their Web site (www.sbck.org) on Tuesday evenings. Further, if a beach was tagged with a “warning” — based on California State Water Board thresholds — Channelkeeper would return to the site on Thursdays for a second test and post the follow-up results before the weekend. Last week, despite only having enough cash to carry out the testing for about two months, the organization’s testers picked up where they left off last March and released their first results of the new rainy season on November 3.

According to county staff, it cost the county some $52,000 annually to run the winter months program, but Channelkeeper needs only $15,000 to carry out essentially the exact same service.

Now, thanks to the proposal made by 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal this week, funding won’t be an issue for the testing program for the rest of this winter and, hopefully, for years to come. According to county staff, it cost the county some $52,000 annually to run the winter months program, but Channelkeeper needs only $15,000 to carry out essentially the exact same service. Speaking about the decision to provide Channelkeepr with the money necessary to keep the program going (the funds will come from tobacco-taxes), 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf said, “This is one of those minimal amounts [that we spend] that have a significant impact for our residents.”

While Channelkeeper will continue to inform the public of its findings via prior methods, the group will also be physically posting the weekly results at the Arroyo Burro Water Resource Center and the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf. The County Health Department, citing a lack of funding, a lack of mandate, and the fact that the Channelkeeper’s lab is not state certified, will not be posting its tell-tale, bright orange “Warning/Aviso” signs at area beaches based on the nonprofit’s test results. A staple of the days when the county was implementing the program, the signs — which would be hung in parking lots and on the end of stakes stuck in the sand of offending beaches —  will not be present this winter, even if a beach is identified as having dangerous levels of bacteria.