The environmental group Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is up early and out late, testing the ocean waters near cruise ships when they come to town.
For years there have been complaints about possible sewage and other discharges from these massive ships that could harm the environment. The concerns, however, have never come with evidence.
Channelkeeper has been the watch dog this fall. Crew members on their own vessel have been well offshore testing the water as the cruise ships come in or go out.
So far Channelkeeper says there's been no detectable pollution that would raise new concerns about the ships.
"We meet them at the 12 mile 'no dumping line', often in the middle of the night." said Channelkeeper Executive Director Kira Redmond. "Then welcome them over the marine radio to Santa Barbara and respectfully remind them that they have crossed into the voluntary no dumping zone, and ask them to respond and affirm that they are aware of that."
Channelkeeper is not doing the testing with government money. It's from donations and grants to the organization. "We're helping our government agencies making sure law are complied with," said Redmond.
Feedback from local residents about the water testing program near cruise ships has been very positive. "I tell you, more than other things we work on, the public is really happy seeing us out there keeping watch," said Redmond who plans on restarting the tests in spring when the cruise ships return.
In the future, however, there may also be aerial efforts to detect any changes in the water that would not normally be there near a cruise ship.