There’s an unwritten rule about surfing in Southern California – never surf after it rains. Reason being, runoff leads to elevated bacteria levels, especially around river mouths and harbors, and can make you sick. There’s also the off-chance something strange might wash up – a diaper, a golf ball, maybe a rat.
On Tuesday, though, Newport Beach cleanup crews were in the process of removing a number hypodermic needles from an area adjacent the Santa Ana River known locally as River Jetties.
Apparently, it’s not uncommon for lifeguards to come across needles that wash up on the beach following a significant rain event. But according to Newport Beach lifeguard captain Skeeter Leeper, that means typically one or two per winter, reports the Los Angeles Times. This, however, is unprecedented.
“It’s something that we have to clean up,”city Municipal Operations Director Mike Pisani told the Times. “It happens every time we get good rain like we’ve had a couple of times in the last two weeks.”
Pisani also told the Times that beachgoers and lifeguards reported finding over a dozen syringes since Monday. ABC7, however, reports local officers said they threw away at least 75 needles. Newport Beach Police Lt. Jeff Brouwer told CBS that number was exaggerated. “We were only able to locate five needles, not like the 100 or so being reported,” he said.
Local resident Chris Heurkins said he alone has picked up at least 100 in the last two weeks. “I don’t want kids, a dog, myself or the surfers that surf here barefoot, constantly walking through there, to have the opportunity to hurt themselves very badly,” he said.
Whatever the actual number, the concern was enough to close the area so officials could continue to search for and dispose of any needles.
Local police believe the needles came from transient encampments. The Santa Ana River drains a watershed of 2,650 square miles in parts of LA, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties.