Kayakers and paddleboarders can head out from the Cowell's/wharf area toward Lighthouse Point and beyond.
(Sara Gobets / For Lookout Santa Cruz)

Sewage line break along East Cliff causes contamination of Schwan Lake, other waterways

A temporary health advisory was also issued at Cowell Beach late last week due to elevated levels of bacteria, probably unrelated to the East Cliff situation. Swimming and wading should be avoided while the advisory is in effect.

Signs posted along Schwan Lake warn of possibly contaminated waters.

A sewer line ruptured along East Cliff near 12th Avenue last Thursday and the break caused approximately 1,400 gallons of sewage to leak into the nearby waterways, most notable Schwan Lake, according to Santa Cruz Public Works assistant director Kent Edler.

“As a precaution, we worked with County Environmental Health to post Schwan Lake so that people don’t enter the water,” he said via email. “Samples have been taken to test for fecal coliform and E. coli, and we haven’t received results back yet.”

Edler expects the department will have results within the next 24 to 48 hours.

July has been a tough month for sewer overflows, Edler said.

“We went about eight months with no sanitary sewer overflows, but have had four in this district in the last month,” he said.

Edler said that the overflows are caused by a culmination of things including cooking grease, tree roots looking for water, or old lines such as the one in East Cliff. The Santa Cruz County Sanitation District has about 220 miles of sewer lines, about 60% of those are over 40 years old.

The County Environmental Health team issued a news release on Friday addressing a temporary health advisory due to elevated levels of bacteria at Cowell Beach. Swimming and wading should be avoided while the advisory is in effect.

Additionally, eight creeks and lagoons throughout the county have been cited due to impaired water quality:

  • Antonelli Pond
  • Moore Creek Lagoon
  • Neary Lagoon outfall at Cowell Beach
  • San Lorenzo Rivermouth
  • Schwan Lagoon at Twin Lakes Beach
  • Soquel Creek mouth at Capitola Beach
  • Porter Gulch Creek at New Brighton Beach
  • Aptos Creek at Rio del Mar Beach