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Navy Sewage Spill Has Large Impact

Water from toilets, showers and sinks at the Navy’s 32nd street facility was mistakenly routed to a storm drain in 2004. That drain empties into Chollas Creek which dumps into the San Diego Bay. Navy officials said about 14 million gallons of sewage has seeped into the bay over the last two years. There hasn’t been a sewage spill this large in San Diego County since 2000. Bruce Reznik is executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper. He says the sewage spill’s effects will be felt.

Reznik: You have public health threats for folks that are swimming or fishing at the bay. There is also ecological damage. You’re adding several different things from bacteria to pharmaceuticals to other types of things that are then available for fish. You’ll have algae blooms, fish kills, a lot of different things. I don’t think we fully understand what those impacts are at this point.

Navy officials say they’re investigating how the sewage line from their building was connected to the wrong place. While spills in San Diego from corroded pipes are common, leaks because of switched lines are unusual says Reznik. He said it’s good the Navy is  conducting a probe of how the spill occurred but he says remediation is also needed.

Reznik: In the past, we’ve advocated for a dollar a gallon spill. I think something like this is a pretty egregious mistake on the military’s part. While this exact incident is unique, we’ve certainly had much contamination from the military and the Navy over the years and decades in San Diego. This isn’t a new problem.

Reznik said environmental regulators have been reluctant in the past to impose penalties against the Navy. If that happens in this case, he said his group will file a lawsuit demanding that fines be levied.

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