Whatever you do this Christmas, just stay off the beach.
A variety of beaches around the Bay Area remain closed to the public after heavy rains prompted massive sewage overflows. Not only is that gross, but it's a public health hazard, with dangerous levels of microorganisms like E. coli detected at Linda Mar Beach, as well as Aquatic Park and Lakeshore Park in San Mateo. Rockaway Beach was also temporarily closed.
The worst spill happened in Marin County, where officials tripled their original estimate of the volume of spilled sewage. In that case, it's believed that JMB Construction, or someone affiliated with them, illegally dumped debris into the sewage system, crippling the water treatment plant and forcing raw waste up out of manhole covers. The polluted water eventually flowed into the bay.
San Francisco is on of the only cities in the country that diverts stormwater to treatment plants. In all of the other surrounding cities, stormwater flows directly into the bay. That means that whatever pollutants wind up on the street have a good chance on making it onto the beach. That doesn't just include raw sewage: lawn pesticides, agricultural waste, and garbage wind up in the ecosystem when it rains.
The beaches won't re-open until Monday -- or possibly much later, depending on weather conditions and officials' ability to prevent any further spills. Some experts recommended waiting as long as several weeks before re-entering the water.
The water isn't the only pollution victim right now, Officials have also warned that the air quality will suffer over Christmas Eve, and have asked everyone to refrain from burning wood or Duraflame logs. Fires contribute to tiny particulate matter than can cause serious respiratory problems for the sick and elderly.