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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Heal The Ocean

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Environment, Natural Resources Conservation & Protection

Mission: Heal the ocean focuses on wastewater infrastructure - sewers and septic systems as well as ocean dumping practices. We have voluntary beach clean ups and buy biodegradable dog bags for santa barbara south county bag dispensers. New this year, facilitating engineers to line up wastewater and water districts for state (prop 1) funding to upgrade wastewater plants to recycled water plants.

Programs: Heal the ocean focuses on wastewater infrastructure - sewers and septic systems - as well as ocean dumping practices that have contributed to ocean pollution that closes santa barbara beaches. We are focused on santa barbara county, but our methods are now serving as a model for other coastal communities across the country. Heal the ocean hires engineers, experts, researchers and scientists, lawyers, gis mappers and university laboratories to produce reports and to give us test results as well as sewer engineering blueprints. We perform cost feasibility studies for upgraded wastewater management methods. We have conducted dna tests in watersheds and well as virus tests in the ocean. We work with city, county and state agencies to initiate new programs of wastewater upgrade. Our approach to solving environmental problems is unique in that we work with (not against) counties, cities, agencies, wastewater and water districts to access state funds to help upgrade wastewater infrastructure and/or help homeowners convert from septic systems to public sewer. We have served on the santa barbara county integrated regional water management plan (irwm) steering committee since 2010, and in this capacity have lined up septic-to-sewer projects for funding, as well as wastewater treatment plant upgrade. In 2014, heal the ocean brought to successful completion the rincon septic-to-sewer project, a 15-year endeavor spearheaded by us, and done in conjunction with the carpinteria sanitary district. The rincon hookup of homes caps the south coast beach communities septic-to-sewer project, which, when finished on sept. 4, 2014, resulted in 7 miles of beach (172 homes) being rid of septic systems in areas of sand and high groundwater. For the rincon septic-to-sewer project heal the ocean was honored on january 29, 2015 with commendations by the regional water quality control board, as well as the california state senate (19th district); and the santa barbara county board of supervisors (1st and 2nd districts). In 2014 and going into 2015, heal the ocean has pushed for upgrading wastewater treatment plants to recycling wastewater(as a way of keeping wastewater out of the ocean), and instead of ocean disposal, purifying wastewater for groundwater recharge and for irrigation to allay 75% of california water supply being used for irrigation. At the end of 2014 heal the ocean contracted with rmc water, los angeles engineers to pair 5 wastewater districts and their relative water districts in facilities upgrade planning grants - which is the first step(s) in making those districts eligible for grant funding under proposition 1, the state water bond voted by california voters in november 2014. We have worked to line up the goleta water district, goleta sanitary district and goleta west sanitary district in a project to upgrade the goleta sanitary district to full potable reuse-level recycled water. In addition we coordinated with dudek engineering, santa barbara, a study of montecito's groundwater basin for montecito sanitary district and montecito water district, to ascertain whether the upgrade of the montecito sanitary district plant can go to full indirect potable reuse (groundwater recharge). Results of that study are due june 2015. Additional septic-to-sewer work includes: individual homes (3 streets) in montecito connected to sewer with heal the ocean help (2012); the town of los olivos/business owners working with heal the ocean on septic to sewer conversion and accessing state funds to help pay for the project (ongoing); multi-year work on the passage of ab885 to regulate septic systems in california (2005-2013) including 6 sacramento sessions until ab 885 became law in may 2013. To formulate local area management plan (lamp) for septic systems under ab885, heal the ocean participated in 12 stakeholder sessions (may 2013 through may 2014) to work with santa barbara county environmental health services(ehs)to formulate a strong lamp. We have participated in public hearings on the lamp before the regional water quality control board and the santa barbara county board of supervisors, the final lamp is expected to be approved sometime in 2015. Miscellaneous work: heal the ocean also runs a voluntary beach cleanup program, wherein school children can sign up for a beach to clean, under supervision of their teachers, receive a free heal the ocean t-shirt, then clean a beach and report to us what they pick up. These reports are published in heal the ocean newsletters and e-letters. Heal the ocean has also provided input through comment letters on a litany of issues and regulations every year lending our knowledge and expertise to rulemaking processes for agencies at the local, county, and state level. Heal the ocean also runs sponsorship of a dog bag program with the county of santa barbara, to raise funds to the county to pay for bioddegradable dog bags in santa barbara south coast beach dispensers, as well as inland parks. Heal the ocean began this program in 2010 when we learned the county was suspending the program to facilitate budget cut of approximately $20,000 per year in dog bags. In 2014 heal the ocean provided the county $17,500 to the county through our dog bag dispenser program, where we contract with the business, provide graphic design for a dispenser sticker for the business to advertise on a dog bag dispenser for one year. We expect to coer 100% of the county's costs in 2015.

Community Stories

3 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

I'm a surfer. I like to surf at Rincon. Yhe reason we will soon have a sewer pipe at Rincon instead of septic systems that drain to the ocean is because Heal the Ocean has fought for us to get it done. If it wasn't for HTO the gov't would still be dithering and delaying getting it done.They are also going after a real plan for storm water run-off. If we wait for the gov't to get it done that's what we'll do:wait. HTO is grass roots and cares what goes into the ocean. If you care what goes in the ocean support HTO.

Review from Guidestar

1 Harry5

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

You couldn't ask for a better organization that goes to the front line on behalf of the people in it's community! HTO doesn't just complain and bring awareness regarding a potentially health threatening situation, they go far beyond that by offering expert advice on how to correct the problems and preserve the health of our beaches and ocean. They are a top notch WORLD recognized organization and deserve the highest level of support! HTO sets the bar and serves as a role model for similar non-profits all across our country.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Heal the Ocean has led the way for the protection of our ocean for a long time. With Hillary Hauser at the helm, H.T.O. has been instrumental in safe-guarding this valuable resource for all. They have brought forward an amazing amount of information that the majority of the public was not aware of. In doing so, intelligent decision making processes have been made on local and statewide policies,...further strengthening the 'protection of this most critical resource'.

Review from Guidestar