November 10 – Public Urges Regional Board to Finally Order Cleanup of San Diego Bay

Wednesday’s packed hearing had nearly unanimous support for an end to 20-year debate

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 10, 2011 – San Diego Coastkeeper, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) and community and business members gathered last night to give public comment to the Regional Water Quality Control Board regarding the cleanup of pollution in San Diego Bay. Almost without exception, the public testimony asked the Regional Board to end the 20-year battle and finally order a cleanup of the bay.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed with all of the support for this cleanup,” said San Diego Coastkeeper Advocacy Director Gabriel Solmer, who began her career working on this issue eight years ago. “The message we heard here tonight is clear—we all want a cleaner San Diego Bay without any further delays.”

Hundreds of supporters filled the Regional Board’s hearing room for the start of public comment at 5 p.m., which lasted until 7:30 p.m. Those who expressed affiliation with BAE or NASSCO wore green shirts. And those affiliated with Coastkeeper and EHC wore blue shirts.

“Regardless of shirt color, the people who testified asked the Regional Board to finally pass a cleanup order to remove the toxic pollution at the bottom of our bay,” said Environmental Health Coalition’s Laura Hunter. “We agree.”

In considering the proposed cleanup order, Coastkeeper and EHC asked the board to change monitoring and trigger levels to better safeguard the cleanup. According to Solmer, these additional measures will add minimal, if any cost, and will allow the dischargers to know when they’ve successfully hit their marks.

“The people last night shared so many reasons to get this cleanup done and done right—environmental justice, economic impact, health concerns and more,” said Hunter. “We need these additional measures to ensure this cleanup meets its goals the first time.”

The Regional Board will continue the four-day panel hearing next week. Currently the board only has three members, which is not enough to reach quorum for a vote on the issue. But according to Regional Board officials, the members expect to make an official vote before the end of the year.

San Diego Bay is listed under the federal Clean Water Act for 20 separate pollutants including sediment toxicity, copper, mercury, PAHs, PCBs, zinc, chlordane and benthic community effects. Its ongoing toxicity hurts fish, aquatic wildlife and the community that depends on them. Due to the fish contamination from the pollutants, the Port of San Diego posted all piers along San Diego Bay with fish consumption advisories. Unfortunately, residents still catch and eat fish from the bay, resulting in serious human health risks.

“After 20 long years of delay and postponement, we are buoyed by the amazing public response to clean the bay now. Decision makers heard loud and clear that San Diegans want their bay back,” said Solmer.  

To find out more about San Diego Bay, Coastkeeper and Environmental Health Coalition’s work on the cleanup, visit Coastkeeper’s official website localhost/sdcoastkeeper.

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Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit us online at http://localhost/sdcoastkeeper.

Founded in 1980, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) builds grassroots campaigns to confront the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use, and unsustainable energy policies. Visit us online at http://www.environmentalhealth.org/.