Chris Gunn

When I think of human impact, I think of places like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Big cities with big populations, huge landfills and air that some day might cast their populations into hospitals with lung problems similar to lifetime smokers.

I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but when I think of San Luis Obispo County, pollution is not the first thing that comes to mind. It’s long coast lines lined with wild grasses, rocky volcanic terrain, dunes in the south and pines on the sea in the north.

I think of fresh air, the salty sea, blue skies and, yet after it rains I go online and look at the surf report and am greeted with a poor water quality caution. If you do not know what a poor water quality caution is, well, it is essentially a flag on the surf line report that represents poor water quality at the particular beach you are looking at.

It is more or less a reminder that there are large amounts of pollutants in the water on the Central Coast after heavy rains. Whether those pollutants are pesticides from local non-organic growers or untreated sewage from the extraordinary amount of septic systems in San Luis Obispo County, it doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s there and it’s a shame.

Did you know that you can contract Hepatitis A from swimming in contaminated ocean water? Hepatitis A is contracted through oral fecal contact. Yah, that’s one for the books and sure it’s great that they warn you about this on most surfing sites. But think about it, the local population knows about the problem, yet seemingly does nothing about it. Don’t get me wrong, it is not just the Central Coast.

It’s all of the California coastline we have to be concerned about, and just so you know, sewage runoff is not a problem in places like North Carolina. In fact, in North Carolina, large storms are a surfer’s dream.

Here are few facts from that give a little insight into why we should all be concerned about the status of our oceans as well as why, for the last 20-plus years, the Surf Rider Foundation has been actively trying to protect our waterways.

Fourteen billion pounds of garbage are dumped into the world’s oceans every year, most in the Northern hemisphere.

Dumping one quart of motor oil down a storm drain contaminates 250,000 gallons of water.

Three and a quarter million tons of oil enter the oceans of the world each year.

Everything that enters a storm drain goes directly to the ocean. That includes litter, used oil, antifreeze, sewage, toxic chemicals, pesticides, etc.

These are just a few facts that, I don’t know, totally blew me away. How about you? Whether you’re surfing, swimming, tanning, sight-seeing or eating seafood, it doesn’t matter – you should be very concerned, becuase in one way or another, the state of our oceans will effect us all.

So the next time that you hear the rain clattering on your window, don’t think about how clean everything on land is going to be when it’s over, think about how disgustingly dirty our water-ways are becoming. Then begin to think about how you do something about it.

Chris Gunn is a journalism senior and assistant sports editor. You can e-mail him at

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