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San Diego Gets Pollution Waiver For Point Loma Plant


Aired 10/8/09

The California Coastal Commission voted Wednesday night to give the city of San Diego a waiver for the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant. The vote means the city won't be paying to upgrade the plant.

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: The California Coastal Commission gave Point Loma Waste Water Treatment a third waiver Wednesday saving the City of San Diego $1.5 billion to upgrade the water treatment plant. The editors discuss local environmentalist viewpoints and the mayor's position on the issue.

The California Coastal Commission voted Wednesday night to give the city of San Diego a waiver for the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant. The vote means the city won't be paying to upgrade the plant.

The Coastal Commission took two and a half hours to consider San Diego's waiver request before approving it in an 8-to-4 vote.

The city is the only metro area in the country that doesn't add secondary treatment to sewage before it is discharged into the ocean.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders says building a secondary treatment plant would cost about $1.5 billion and could increase sewer bills by 70 percent within five years.

Sanders told Commissioners scientific studies show discharge from the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plan is not harming marine life.

"Their research concluded that the treatment plant as it operates today does not have a detrimental impact on the environment and continuously operates within its permit requirements," Sanders says.

But Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan says ongoing studies don't provide real time data on whether the discharge is hurting marine life. She voted against the waiver request.

Mark Gold with Heal the Bay questioned why the commission was reconsidering their August vote that denied the city's request.

"Bringing an item back for re-vote only two months later sets a horrible precedent and sends a message to the public that this is purely a political decision, especially considering that there's no new information," Gold says.

Several local environmental groups, including San Diego Coastkeeper, supported the waiver.

Marco Gonzalez says Coastkeeper has an agreement with the city for a two-year study on recycling the discharge instead of piping it into the ocean.

"We're willing as the environmental community on the ground who has sued the city multiple times on this issue, who've been working on this for more than 10 years to say we're moving towards a better plan," Gonzalez says. "A plan that will reduce or eliminate the discharges to the ocean."

Several commissioners pointed out there's no guarantee the water reuse study will solve the treatment issue.

In the meantime, the Coastal Commission vote means San Diego won't be paying for an upgrade to the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant.

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Avatar for user 'BigPicture'

BigPicture | October 8, 2009 at 3:37 p.m. ― 7 years, 5 months ago

Secondary treatment was established to protect streams from overload of nitrates. The Point Loma plant uses an innovated process that is more reliable because it is chemically based instead of biology based (primary treated sewage is feed to bacteria that use the nitrates as food). In advanced primary treatment, which I think should be renamed as chemical secondary, most everything that is not a salt is electronically charged, clings together and settles out of the water. It is much more advanced then primary treatment. The difference is the Point Loma Plant does not remove as many of the nitrates because these are salts.

Nitrates are a normal part of the ecology and rain is high in nitrates. If you compare arid areas with for example areas rich in animal life such as Washington state, arid areas have a nitrate deficit. Compare the dilution of treated wastewater in a narrow stream that receives discharges from plants every few miles, to a discharge into a huge body of water 320’ deep and endlessly wide. An analogy can be made that this is equivalent to the difference between fertilizing your law with six huge bags of nitrate fertilizer to throwing three grains of it on your lawn. The first obviously kills everything, the second may have an impact but it is not detectable and in our arid area, more would be closer to the nitrate levels found where it rains.

To put this in perspective, if you used the same criteria of no net impact on all life and applied that to the land, we would not have been able to construct a single building or road in San Diego. Walking on your property could have more negative impact on animal life then what we are doing to the ocean.

The area that receives the plume 4.5 miles out at sea is not sensitive habitat like tide pools or even kelp beds but what seams like an endless expanse of sand bottom, that to the untrained person looks like it supports no life. If some of this very diluted (and sanitized) water should happen to get back to shore, it would be a benefit to the kelp beds. If you want more life in the ocean, and to support our fishing industry, the logical solution would be to build man made rock outcrops that would expand our kelp beds. These would then use the nitrates and offset any difference our treated water makes in the ocean.

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Avatar for user 'spiritpen'

spiritpen | October 8, 2009 at 5:12 p.m. ― 7 years, 5 months ago

San Diego Surfrider, Sierra Club and Coastkeeper all got their wish tonight, when, after a 13 hour marathon meeting, the California Coastal Commission - forced into an illegal re-vote on the sewage waiver- changed their vote and gave San Diego another 301h waiver to continue dumping hundreds of millions of gallons a day into Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma. Surprise guest was the Ocean Protection Council's Mike Crissman, who went into the back room with Commissioners and apparently ordered them to allow the waiver. I drove over 600 miles to attend, but no San Diego residents were in attendance on the waiver issue- . Crissman was obviously ordered into the fray by Arnold the tamper-nator, after enviro groups from outside the area brought the only waiver in the state, worst in the world, to a halt. Message from Ocean Protection Council, San Diego, Surfrider and Arnold to surfers: shut up and swim in S_ _ _.

The folks who wanted the waiver sold out the surfers not because they thought the city would someday recycle, but simply because they are unable to fight and so just rolled over and hung out their tongues like a whale when attacked by Orcas. The local sellouts are still smarting from watching outsiders walk in and bring down that waiver, at least for a moment. But the real story here is that Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the California Secretary of Resources, Mike 'rissman, to come in and tamper with the regulatory system! Mike Crissman also happens to chair the Ocean Protection Council, and should resign.

joey racano "Ill be Back!"

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