Take Action – Ban Plastic Bags

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Each year, the average consumer uses 500 plastic bags. Each of these 500 plastic bags cost the taxpayer as much as 17 cents in recycling, collection and disposal—totalling $85 per year. Support AB 1998 to save our environment and your tax dollars. Photo credit Matthew Meier Photography

It’s down to the wire. With days to go until the legislative deadline of August 31, we need to push HARD to get AB 1998 to the front of the agenda. If you haven’t already, please write AND call your senator to tell them you support Assembly Bill 1998 to rid the state of single-use plastic bags.

We all know that single-use bags are bad for our environment, but did you know that they are also bad for our California economy? Litter from single-use plastic items decreases tourist values and costs local governments and private businesses millions of dollars each year to cleanup. To stop the flow of debris from our hands to the sea, we need legislation such as AB 1998 that will affect the entire state. This bill will ban plastic single-use bags and require recycled paper bags be sold at supermarkets, retail pharmacies and convenience stores throughout California, thus pushing Californians towards the sustainable choice—REUSABLE BAGS!

Want to get more involved?

Help us get last minute supporters by forwarding this link to friends and neighbors, sending in a letter on behalf of your business or contacting Coastkeeper for more information.

Published in Marine Debris

Ban Plastic Bags

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

California’s ocean economy is valued at $43 billion, including an estimated 408,000 jobs mostly in the tourism and recreation sectors. But plastic bags are littering our waterways and our coasts, threatening the marine environment, damaging our economy, and creating a potential hazard to human health. Join in the fight against plastic bag waste by SUPPORTING AB 1998!

dsc00052-sAssembly Bill 1998 (AB 1998) will ban plastic single-use bags and require recycled paper bags be sold at supermarkets, retail pharmacies, and convenience stores throughout California. Passage of this legislation is a major step in breaking our addition to single-use bags and reducing the environmental and economic impacts of plastic bag pollution in inland and coastal communities.

State agencies in California spend $25 million every year to clean up plastic single-use bags that end up in our waste stream. This value doesn’t include the millions of dollars that local governments must spend in street sweeping, litter prevention and outreach programs, and cleaning up trash-impaired waterways. Our time and money can be put to better use.

We urge you to join the fight to BAN PLASTIC BAGS and reduce trash in our waterways and on our beaches!

Please sign this letter telling your California State Senator that you support AB 1998 to ban single-use plastic bags. Try to send in a letter of support on behalf of the business you work for, and show that this bill will not negatively impact our California economy. Contact Coastkeeper for more information.

Published in Marine Debris

Coastkeeper Tours Groundwater Replenishment System

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

On June 25, the San Diego Coastkeeper Environmental Law Clinic staff and legal interns toured the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System in Fountain Valley, CA.     

The Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System began as a response to a water shortage in Orange County in 1965. At this time it was discovered that the water table had dropped so low that ocean water was seeping in and contaminating the groundwater. Since Orange County currently gets about 60 percent of its water from the ground, protecting this source is very important.  To protect the groundwater, the district began a project known as Water Factory 21.


San Diego Coastkeeper Environmental Law & Policy Clinic staff and interns drink water from Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System, which is similar in concept to the wastewater recycling pilot project in San Diego.

Today’s program is an expansion of the successes of Water Factory 21. Water is pumped over from the sewage treatment plant next door. Within 45 minutes it is perfectly clean water. The plant uses a three-step process to clean the water. First, the water is filtered using a microfiltration system that sucks the water through very fine filters. Then the water goes through reverse osmosis where water is forced through the molecular structure of the Reverse Osmosis membranes. After this stage the water is exposed to ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the water and destroy trace compounds that may have passed through the Reverse Osmosis membranes.

Half of the now pure water is pumped into the seawater barrier to keep the seawater from infiltrating the groundwater basin, and half is pumped up and naturally filters into the groundwater. The system produces almost 70 million gallons of filtered water each day keeping the groundwater pure and plentiful.

After touring the entire process, we were able to taste the water. It was great. It’s so pure, and has no mineral content, so it’s practically tasteless.

Reactions to 2.1 Million Gallon Sewage Spill in Tijuana River Valley

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Of San Diego’s eleven watersheds, the Tijuana River watershed is the largest. Most of it lies on the Mexican side of the border. It is also the watershed with some of the worst sewage pollution in our region. When you hear about Imperial Beach being closed because of high bacteria counts, it is a good bet that the sewage causing the problem came from Mexico. After years of squabbling over how to fix the problem – building the Bajagua treatment plant, upgrading other facilities – there seemed to be enough political drama to start a Mexican soap opera but no real solution to the problem. In April of this year, La Morita sewage treatment plant opened in Tijuana. This plant will treat much of the sewage in the Tijuana region and reclaim some of that treated wastewater for use in the irrigation of an adjacent nursery. The trees grown with that reclaimed water will be planted throughout Baja California.  This plant is a big step towards being the first region in Mexico to treat 100% of its sewage.

Needless to say, it was with dismay that I read the news on Sunday that there had been an enormous spill – 2.1 million gallons of raw sewage – in the Tijuana River Valley at the beginning of June.  Maybe more alarming than the spill itself is that none of it was captured by the International Boundary and Water Commission’s facility. The IWBC treatment facility was designed specifically to capture these types of flows.  The foreign origin of the problem and the federal status of the IWBC facility have put this spill outside of the regulatory reach of the Regional Water Quality Control Board and it seems that in addition to no clean-up, there will be no real enforcement action either. 

While news of this spill is a sad reminder of the many infrastructure problems of the border region, we need to stay focused on the positive steps that have been taken to remedy the problem.  Less than ten years ago, it was not uncommon to open your morning newspaper to read a story about huge volumes of sewage flowing untreated into San Diego’s creeks and bays. These spills would leave behind a wake of pollution that fouled our shorelines and exposed surfers and swimmers to micro-organisms that can make people sick. In the face of government and regulatory inaction, groups like San Diego Coastkeeper stepped in with advocacy, including a lawsuit to force upgrades to our wastewater collection system. Since that time, we have seen a huge drop in sewage spills.  So we know with enough pressure and will that change can happen.

Published in Sick of Sewage

We want you to know what’s in your water

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

What good is collecting water quality data if no one gets to see it?

In order to make data more freely available, San Diego Coastkeeper is in the process of updating our watershed wiki. The site is a platform to share information about the San Diego region’s watersheds, including data collected by the citizen water quality monitoring program. This is where users can look up data about our watersheds including beach advisories, water quality data, land use types, beneficial uses and other watershed resources. As a wiki, users are encouraged to join into the discussion. We are currently accepting feedback on how to make the data more useful and presentable.

Take a look at www.sdwatersheds.org. Learn about your local watershed, add your thoughts, and suggest improvements.

Check out beach water quality before you jump in

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

The Fourth of July weekend brings tons of visitors to San Diego’s coastline. And San Diego Coastkeeper is helping beachgoers know what’s in the water before they dive in. On its water quality monitoring page, Coastkeeper posts the latest warnings and data from the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health (DEH), so that revelers can empower themselves with knowledge about their favorite beach spots. The website URL is http://www.sdwatersheds.org/wiki/Beach_Monitoring.

The page contains the status (Open, Advisory, or Closed) for 56 locations where the county collects weekly water quality samples. Web browsers can learn more about their beach destination by clicking through to check out the bacterial monitoring data. The higher use beaches on the page also have links to graphs showing the history of bacterial levels at those beaches.

San Diego Coastkeeper updates the site daily, including over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Kindergarten Students Learn About Pollution Prevention

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

San Diego Coastkeeper and the City of San Diego recently launched the Project SWELL Kindergarten curriculum in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). Through these lessons students learn about the different plants and animals living in San Diego’s aquatic environments and about storm drain pollution. 

Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) promotes awareness of clean water and fosters a sense of environmental stewardship by engaging children in improving the health of our ocean and waterways. This unique environmental education program enhances the existing science curriculum with hands-on lessons to teach students about pollution prevention in their local environment. 

Including the Kindergarten lessons, Project SWELL will be taught to approximately 50,000 students in five grades in SDUSD and one grade in Oceanside Unified School District annually. Ultimately, the City of San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper plan to develop Project SWELL in all K-12 classrooms in SDUSD and continue to expand the program into other school districts in San Diego County.

Educating the Environmental Caretakers of the Future

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Educating San Diego’s youth about the importance of clean water and healthy marine ecosystems is a priority for San Diego Coastkeeper. Thanks to our environmental science education program, Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership), more than 50,000 students are personally involved in protecting San Diego’s natural water resources annually.

Project SWELL is hands-on, K-12 water quality and pollution prevention curricula that teaches children about the importance of our recreational waterways and human-water interaction from both environmental-conservation and environmental-science standpoints.

Most children (as well as their parents) are unaware that our bays and beaches are dangerously polluted, and ever fewer understand the role we play in this problem and must play in its solution. This unique San Diego-based education program supports progressive change by educating students on ways they can minimize impacts to this sensitive coastal environment and address environmental issues pertaining specifically to our region.

Project SWELL is in Kindergarten,  2nd, 4th, 5th & 6th grade classrooms in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and in 5th grade in Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD). In 2011, we will launch the 1st grade curriculum in SDUSD and the 6th grade lessons in OUSD.

Coastkeeper is working to expand the program county-wide to enhance environmental awareness among every K-12 student in San Diego County. Through Project SWELL, we can help empower and educate these future leaders of America to understand and improve the condition of San Diego’s coast and waterways. Read more about Project SWELL.

Fighting for Science in San Diego Schools

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

This past year, San Diego Coastkeeper has been leading the fight for strong science programs in San Diego schools. Since 2000, science education and performance has improved dramatically in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). The district is the second largest school district in California and it now ranks competitively with coastal districts and is currently the most proficient urban district in California in science performance.

However, severe state and district education budget cuts, a change in focus and three major reorganizations at the district have changed the way science is taught in SDUSD. SDUSD Board of Education members Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans asked Coastkeeper’s Executive Director, Bruce Reznik, to convene and chair a Science Advisory Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) to evaluate SDUSD’s science curricula and its delivery to the classroom.

The BRTF developed a final report and presented their findings and recommendations to the Board of Education in December 2009 to help SDUSD stay on track to create a world-class science program. In 2010, the BRTF and SDUSD senior staff had three joint meetings to develop an implementation strategy to ensure strong science in San Diego schools  to best prepare students for the educational and job opportunities in the 21st Century economy. Coastkeeper will continue to work with SDUSD on implementation of the recommendations.

Save the Date for California Fish & Game Commission Meeting

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

If you had the opportunity to watch the absolutely “invigorating” meeting of the Fish and Game Commission on June 23 and June 24, you know that it was anything but. The only agenda item dedicated to the Marine Life Protection Act was the timeline for the approval of the south coast Marne Life Protection Act. This update modified the timeline for implementation by one month. As a result, we are not expecting the final adoption until at least November.

The delay is in large part due to the development of the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) Environmental Impact Report(EIR). CEQA, passed in 1970, requires an environmental impact study on any public or private development project in California. These reports are intended to fully inform both lawmakers and the public on the total environmental impacts of a given project. In this case, it will be the potential negative environmental impact of environmental protections. The irony.

Due to the size and population of Southern California, previous baselines and assumptions used for the central coast EIR could not be used for developing the EIR for Southern California; therefore, it will take longer than previously anticipated to develop.

This is just a minor change. One of the most important Fish and Game Commission meetings will still be the August 4 and 5 meeting in Santa Barabara, Calif. This meeting will be the last opportunity for the public to advocate our support for the strongest science-based option “proposal #3” directly to the Fish and Game Commissioners. We need as many supporters to attend as possible. If you are interested or can attend please contact me at Jeremya@sdcoastkeeper.org.

Published in Marine Conservation