Staff Report

With winter promising more rain locally, Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services has issued a seasonal warning about health issues associated with storm water runoff.

Contact with untreated storm water may increase the risk for illnesses such as rashes, fever, chills, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea, officials note. 

To minimize potential health risks, it is recommended that people do not swim, play or surf in the ocean and creeks for at least three days following a rain event. If people do choose to swim during the rain or immediately following the rain, they should avoid areas near the outfall from drainpipes and creeks that enter the ocean. Beachgoers should also avoid discolored water, which may indicate high pollutant levels.  

Sport harvesters should wait at least 10 days after a significant rain to harvest shellfish. High bacterial levels, pesticide, herbicide and motor oil and grease flushed into the ocean with the storm runoff may contaminate the shellfish beds. 

Adequate cooking of shellfish will destroy harmful bacteria, but may not be effective in killing viruses. In addition, cooking does not eliminate chemical and metal pollutants in the shellfish.

For more information on the county’s Ocean Water Monitoring Program, visit