The treated wastewater from our two treatment plants is released over five miles out into the ocean at a depth of two hundred feet below the surface of the water. To ensure that the marine environment and public health are protected, the Orange County Sanitation District has maintained an extensive ocean monitoring program for over 40 years. The monitoring program is specified in OCSD’s Ocean Discharge Permit which is issued jointly by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Ana Region 8.
OCSD scientists make sure that the ocean is safe for swimming, fish are safe to eat, and that animal populations are healthy. We do this through a tri-phase ocean monitoring program. The core phase consists of conducting marine population assessments (fish and invertebrates), fish tissue contaminant analysis (seafood safety), checking the ocean bottom (mud) for chemical contaminants, water quality assessments, and wastewater and sediment toxicity testing. The regional monitoring phase consists of coastal marine studies in cooperation with other entities throughout the southern California region. The strategic process studies phase can take various forms. For example, they can be studies that answer questions raised, but not answered, in the core monitoring phase, in anticipation of new environmental regulations from our State and Federal regulators, or testing new methods that may make our program better.
The program's results are published each year in the Marine Monitoring Annual Report. The reports are provided to regulators, the scientific community, and the public here.
In addition, surfzone samples are collected in ankle deep water at 38 stations along 21 miles of shoreline including Newport Beach and Huntington Beach to assess water quality. These samples are analyzed for three indicator bacteria that the Orange County Health Care Agency uses to determine the presence of harmful pathogens and the safety of beach recreation.
Surfzone sampling is conducted every week by OCSD staff and results are transmitted to Orange County Health officials who determine the potential public health risks. The results are posted on OCSD’s Laboratory webpage and up-to-date beach water quality information can be found on Orange County Health Care Agency’s website.