San Diego Bay looks beautiful, but under the sparkling water, there’s a toxic secret.
According to the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, more than thirty locations in San Diego Bay suffer from unhealthy water, ground beneath that water or both. A federal list that identifies unhealthy waters, called the 303(d) list, includes San Diego Bay for 20 separate pollutants–including copper, mercury, PAHs, PCBs, zinc, and chlordane–along with general toxicity in the bottom of the bay and the harmful effects to plants and sea life that live there. These pollutants continue to find their way into San Diego Bay from urban runoff and copper-based paints on boats.
Much of the legacy pollution in San Diego Bay comes from the shipyards and Navy facilities that line the eastern shore of the bay.
In 2003, Coastkeeper and Natural Resources Defense Council successfully sued Southwest Marine (now BAE), the Navy’s largest ship repair and maintenance facility on the West Coast, on charges that it failed to implement required measures to prevent toxins from flowing into San Diego Bay. This case reached its conclusion when the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the shipyard’s final appeal. Southwest Marine had challenged the September 1999 U.S. District Court ruling, later upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, which required the shipyard to improve its stormwater pollution prevention practices and found the company liable for $799,000 due to recurring permit violations.
You can learn more about the specific priority pollutants in San Diego Bay and Coastkeeper’s leadership role in the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s 2012 adoption of a cleanup order for the shipyards to remove pollution from San Diego Bay.