About the Ocean Water Protection Program

As part of the County of Orange Health Care Agency (HCA), Environmental Health’s Ocean Water Protection Program is responsible for protecting the public from exposure to ocean and bay waters that may be contaminated with sewage or may cause illness along Orange County’s 42 miles of open ocean coastline, and 70 miles of harbor and bay frontage. Ocean and bay waters used for body-contact recreational activities such as swimming, surfing, shellfish collection and diving must meet specific bacteriological standards to be considered safe for such purposes.

72-walkonsandOver the past 40 years, the Health Care Agency and two local sanitation agencies (the Orange County Sanitation District and the South Orange County Wastewater Authority) have been cooperatively testing the coastal waters in Orange County for bacteria that indicate the possible presence of disease-causing organisms. The sanitation agencies and HCA program staff participate in the weekly collection of water samples at approximately 150 ocean, bay, harbor and drainage locations throughout coastal Orange County.

Ocean Water Protection Program staff review bacteriological water sample results every day and issue ocean and bay water closures, postings and health advisories under the requirements stipulated by the California Health and Safety Code and Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. When the results of testing indicate that one or more of the Ocean Water-Contact Sports Standards have been exceeded, the public is notified (i.e., signs are posted at the beach, the hotline at (714) 433-6400 and Web page at ocbeachinfo.com are updated), and the sampling frequency and locations where samples are taken may increase until results meet established standards and/or the source of the problem is eliminated. In addition, the Ocean Water Protection Program staff respond on a 24-hour basis to investigate reports of sewage spills or other contamination incidents affecting Orange County’s ocean and bay waters.