March 14 – Regional Water Quality Control Board Unanimously Adopts San Diego Bay Cleanup

Wednesday’s final ruling comes after a 20-year-long battle by Coastkeeper, EHC

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 6, 2011 – On Saturday, September 17, around 10,000 volunteers will visit 90 coastal and inland cleanup sites for a one-day attack on marine debris and inland pollution. This year, Coastal Cleanup Day coordinators I Love A Clean San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper highlight on their website several green “in need” cleanup sites, where data from the annual event show a higher demand for volunteers. To reduce the event’s carbon footprint and individual waste, organizers also ask volunteers to select local sites in their own communities and to bring reusable buckets, bags, work gloves and water bottles.
“Trash travels from inland communities into storm drains which empty into our canyons, creek beds and eventually the ocean,” said Pauline Martinson, Executive Director for I Love A Clean San Diego. “That’s why it’s especially important for volunteers to lend a hand in their local neighborhood—our entire county needs a cleaning.”
To encourage participation in areas that need extra hands, San Diego’s Coastal Cleanup Day website, features “in need” sites labeled in green in areas such as Clairemont, Normal Heights, City Heights, La Mesa, Tijuana River Valley and more. These sites were identified based on data from previous cleanups, indicating that some inland sites recover more debris as well as larger items such as tires, couches, and more.
“A recent statewide survey shows that this event significantly increases knowledge about the causes of marine debris—and that’s the first step in stopping the problem,” said Alicia Glassco, Education and Marine Debris Manager at Coastkeeper. “We see Coastal Cleanup Day as a hands-on educational event that connects residents to their neighborhood while removing harmful debris.”
I Love A Clean San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper also ask volunteers to reduce their carbon footprint while participating in the event. Instead of traveling long distance to a site, volunteers should stay at their local cleanup locations and remember to bring their own reusable bag or bucket, work gloves and water bottle.
Last year in San Diego County, volunteer involvement rose to approximately 9,000 participants, with another 3,000 volunteers lending their support across the border in the U.S./Mexico-shared Tijuana Watershed. Volunteers removed close to 100 tons of debris from more than 80 cleanup sites along the coastline and in canyons, creek beds, lagoons, estuaries and open spaces.
This year, volunteers should register on the San Diego County event website at The website includes an interactive Google Map with all cleanup sites in the region, including a handful of green “in need” sites. Sites where registration is at capacity are denoted in red. Information for children, scouts, and groups are also available on the website.

SAN DIEGO, March 14, 2012 – San Diego Coastkeeper and Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) salute the Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) on ordering a cleanup of the 143,400 cubic yards of toxic sediments from the bottom of San Diego Bay. After a 20-year battle, the polluters will be held accountable, and the bay will have a chance to return to a cleaner state. In addition to celebrating the long-awaited cleanup order, both organizations asked the Regional Board to require that the cleanup actually achieve the alternative cleanup levels that the Regional Board staff has determined is safe for public health and environment.

“The Regional Board should be applauded for finally acknowledging this pollution and the harm it causes to human, environmental and economic health,” said Jill Witkowski, legal director at San Diego Coastkeeper. “It’s about time that we make those responsible for the pollution clean up their mess.”

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. Due to the fish contamination from the pollutants, the Port of San Diego posted all piers along San Diego Bay with fish consumption advisories. However, because residents still catch and eat fish from the bay, they continue to be exposed to serious human health risks. The bay also plays a major role in San Diego County’s tourism economy, which depends on clean and safe coastal waters to attract visitors.

“This toxic pollution at the bottom of San Diego Bay prevents it from being safely fishable,” said Environmental Health Coalition’s Laura Hunter. “The cleanup is great news for the communities surrounding the bay. This cleanup action will reduce pollution in the bay and is an important step toward improving a food source for many families that fish it to feed their children.”

Unfortunately, as approved, the cleanup order includes some loopholes that may let the responsible parties leave more sediment pollution in the bay than the analysis shows is safe.

“The best way to illustrate the gravity of this situation is to look at mercury levels in the bay,” said Witkowski. “Currently, the Regional Board found mercury levels in San Diego Bay that are unsafe for human and environmental health. But given the loopholes in this cleanup plan, the cleanup will be considered a ‘success’ even if the mercury level is exactly the same as it is right now.” 

Coastkeeper and EHC will continue to monitor the process to ensure that the bay is cleaned and the cleanup plan is executed in a manner that reduces impacts to communities. Both organizations suggested steps to the Regional Board that it can enact to protect the community during the cleanup process while it achieves safe cleanup levels.  

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


SAN DIEGO COASTKEEPER: Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. Visit us online at

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH COALITION: 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