September 26 – San Diego Coastkeeper’s data show sewage spill causes ongoing impact

Environmental watchdog to present findings at City’s Natural Resource & Culture Committee

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, CA-Sept. 26, 2011- San Diego Coastkeeper’s water quality monitoring results have revealed that the Sept. 8 Los Penasquitos Creek sewage spill has entered the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and continues to impact the Los Penasquitos Lagoon. Coastkeeper staff will present this information to the Natural Resource & Culture Committee of the San Diego City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 28, as part of the report from the Public Utilities Department regarding power outage impacts. At the meeting, Coastkeeper’s lawyers will ask the City to take meaningful timely action to ensure effective investigation, cleanup and prevention.

“Now is the time for the city to rectify its mistakes handling this sewage crisis and take the proper steps to ensure it won’t happen again,” said Gabriel Solmer, Coastkeeper’s advocacy director,  “Our human and environmental health and economy depend on the city taking discrete and proactive action.”

Coastkeeper volunteers were the first to discover and report harmful impacts in the Los Penasquitos Lagoon following the 1.9-million gallon sewage spill from the Roselle Street pumping station. While Coastkeeper’s sampling data revealed high levels of fecal indicator bacteria, ammonia and phosphorous, volunteers saw grey-colored water, smelled a strong sewage odor and spotted a number of dead fish in the lagoon. Data graphs and photographs are available on Coastkeeper’s blog.

Due to the reporting efforts of Coastkeeper’s first responders, City and Regional Water Quality Control Board staff eventually set up mitigation efforts to remove sewage from the creek. City crews arrived on scene four days after the spill. As of Friday, the City had completed pumping efforts after comparing the background levels of sewage to Coastkeeper’s monitoring data at the pumping site. However, dissolved oxygen remained low downstream of the spill. Bacteria and ammonia levels remained above state standards when last checked on September 20.

In a written report to the City committee, City Public Works staff explained the impact of the blackout and the cause of the spill. As part of the report, staff committed to coordination with state and local agencies for ongoing cleanup efforts. Given the cause of the spill, the staff also pledged to study options for back-up on-site power generation, although with no given timeframe.

Coastkeeper’s Solmer appreciated the switch in thinking. “This spill, when coupled with other recent events in San Onofre, Del Mar, Cardiff, San Diego Bay and Tijuana, shows a disturbing increasing trend in the region,” she said.  “We were happy to stand with the mayor just last year and tout a decade of decreasing spills in San Diego. With those numbers now on the rise, now is not the time to turn our backs on this issue. Now is the time for the City of San Diego to be a leader.”

The City’s Natural Resource & Culture Committee meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 28 at City Hall.  The meeting is open to the public. The Committee will take testimony on the spill during agenda item 7.

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Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s bays, beaches, watersheds and ocean for the people and wildlife that depend on them.  We balance community outreach, education, and advocacy to promote stewardship of clean water and a healthy coastal ecosystem.