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Surfers behind clean water initiative

May 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A popular beach in San Clemente has become synonymous with pollution and high levels of bacteria in recent years, especially after heavy rains. But now a new cleanup project aims to get those waters sparkling again.Timmy Turner shows off the synthetic material that holds his skull together.

"One fits right here, fits perfect, the other one fits perfect right here," said Turner.

The 28-year-old professional surfer almost died after contracting a staph infection after surfing in water polluted after a heavy rain.

"An infection grew in my sinuses and went up to my skull and ate through," said Turner.

Turner and his wife are grateful to hear about a project that will cut down bacteria in the water at Poche Beach in San Clemente.

"Water quality is not great, it's been consistently posted over years with an 'F' grade. There is very high bacteria content," said Martyn Hoffmann, Miocean.

Local governments put money into the $3 million UV treatment plant, but needed extra help to finish.

The non-profit group called Miocean came up with the remaining $250,000.

The group is made up of business people -- many are surfers -- who have raised $1 million a year for various projects over the past several years.

"Miocean was a result of a friend of ours who got a staph infection from surfing at a beach not far from here," said Keith Ross, Miocean founder.

The Poche Beach project will trap polluted water before it heads to the ocean.

"It takes urban runoff coming from the land and stops it here at this location. We then pump it to a filtration system," said Mary Anne Skorpanich, OC Watersheds Program.

Ultraviolet light is then used to kill bacteria.

After the ultraviolet treatment, the now clean water would travel from the treatment plant through pipes back to the ocean.

Officials are still running tests, but expect to have the plant working in a couple of weeks.

Those behind it, looking forward to cleaner, safer water for the 140,000 people who enjoy this beach each year.

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