HUNTINGTON BEACH ( – The streets may seem clean after this week’s big storms, but the ocean is not so much. In fact, it is hazardous to your health, experts said.

Charlie Coffman knows firsthand the ocean water doesn’t just look disgusting after this week’s storms, it’s downright dangerous.

“Whatever is over 104 is not safe to swim in so you get sick,” the fifth-grader said.

Charlie’s class is part of a newer program through the Surfrider Foundation that tests water samples along Huntington Beach. She and her classmates measure indicator bacteria, E-coli and enterococcus – microbes that are associated with pathogens.

On Tuesday, her teacher gathered a sample of runoff from the Santa Ana River. Charlie and her classmates found it had a bacteria level that far exceeded state safety standards.

The mayor of Long Beach tweeted a picture showing what he said was three tons of trash floating down on the Los Angeles River on its way to the ocean.

A map issued by the Orange County Health Care Agency shows all the yellow areas represent ocean water bacteria levels that exceed state health standards and may cause illness.

(credit: Orange County Health Agency)

(credit: Orange County Health Agency)

Charlie’s father, Jeff Coffman, started Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force that posts the fifth-graders findings online. He said while surfers like to catch big waves, they should know that the water can be hazardous to their health.

“It carries all this bacteria and trash and heavy metals and hydrocarbons and all these bad things, fertilizers, pesticides and it pollutes our ocean,” said Coffman.

Experts advise swimmers and surfers to stay out of the water for at least three days after a storm.


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