Santa Cruz, CA—Santa Cruz County’s 29 miles of coastline is a magnificent resource that attracts over three million visitors annually. Despite being within the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary, a small but significant stretch at Cowell Beach has shown higher levels of bacteria during regular tests on occasion in recent years.
That is why the City of Santa Cruz has been actively working since voters approved Measure E in 2008 to identify and mitigate beach pollution through the following efforts:
· Investing $100,000 annually on cleaning local beaches and the removal of trash and debris.
· Spending $100,000 annually on public education and outreach including signage on local storm drains.
· Covering trash receptacles on the Santa Cruz Wharf.
· Diverting over 50,000,000 gallons of urban runoff during the summer to the wastewater treatment facility.
· Sweeping the wharf daily using a new street sweeper.
· Sifting and raking Cowell and Main Beaches regularly during the summer.
“These test results are unacceptable and we are exploring all actions to fix this problem,” says Santa Cruz City Councilmember David Terrazas, who initiated a City investigation of persistent water quality problems at Cowell Beach. “Our community demands better and our beaches deserve better and that is why City staff, partners, and our entire community are working hard on solutions to protect Cowell Beach for today and for future generations,” he said.
On April 9 the Santa Cruz City Council held a Special Study Session, where City staff and partners outlined a strategy to precisely identify the sources of pollution at Cowell Beach. Only a portion of Cowell Beach, directly in front of the Neary Lagoon pipe outlet, showed high bacteria counts. A broken private sanitary sewer lateral—a significant impact to Cowell Beach—was recently discovered about 1,000 feet from the beach and was repaired. Staff also outlined a plan to better isolate Neary Lagoon from Cowell Beach during the summer season, as animal bacteria generated from the lagoon habitat could also be a significant contributor to the overall bacterial counts.
“We (City Council) are encouraged by the recent steps staff have taken to mitigate problems at Cowell’s,” Terrazas continued. “Our beaches are a place where we enjoy time, teach our children to swim and surf and learn about nature. Protecting our ocean environment and our community’s health will remain a priority.”
Cowell Beach Press Release