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Groups Demand Cleanup Of San Diego Bay

Environmental Groups Say Toxic Contaminated Sediment Endangers People, Wildlife

San Diego environmental groups are demanding the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board take action on a cleanup plan for San Diego Bay.

San Diego environmental groups are demanding the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board take action on a cleanup plan for San Diego Bay.

San Diego Coastkeeper and the Environmental Health Coalition said lawsuits, studies and other delays have left a toxic chemical soup of contaminated sediment in the Bay primarily from shipyards.

Gabriel Solmer with San Diego Coastkeeper said the pollution harms people and wildlife.

"Heavy metals and all kinds of nasty contaminants that were dumped in the bay over the last few decades that were carried there by the creeks into the bay, and have sat in the sediment are really poisoning our food web, poisoning the fish and up the food chain to people to our wildlife," said Solmer.

Beto Vasquez of Encanto has friends and family living near the polluted bay.

"No where else along the bay, not Ocean Beach, not La Jolla not anywhere else do you see so much industry going on that kind of keeps the community from actually enjoying what it is that's offered there," Vasquez said.

Vasquez said he's also worried about people fishing from piers along the Bay who eat the fish despite signs with posted warnings.

"There's been plenty of times where I have family and friends that go fishing off the local pier," said Vasquez. "But unfortunately you've got to throw the fish back or you just have to get rid of it because sometimes they get some pretty nasty looking fish out of there (in the Bay)."

Laura Hunter with the Environmental Health Coalition said the toxic sediment in the bay is an environmental justice issue.

"Ninety-six percent of the fishers on the piers are people of color, many of them eating the fish, many of them fishing daily and weekly, many of them feeding them to their families," said Hunter." Corporations should not be able to pollute such a precious resource as San Diego Bay and get away with it."

Hunter said there has been many sediment cleanups in parts of San Diego Bay. She said an initial cleanup order for shipyards was issued six years ago.

"You have very recalcitrant and belligerent polluters at this site, the shipyards, the named parties in the order, and they have employed a very highly expensive, highly controversial process of delay tactics," Hunter said.

Solmer with San Diego Coastkeeper said it has been more than 20 years since the problem of contaminants from shipyards was identified.

But lawsuits and other delays have not produced action to clean up the toxic chemical soup on the bottom of San Diego Bay.

"It should be our birthright that we can swim and fish in San Diego Bay," Solmer said. "It is the jewel of the county and it isan area that we should all be able to enjoy. And that has been stolen from the public by decades of contamination."

Solmer said the Bay is listed under the federal Clean Water Act for 20 separate pollutants including PCBs, copper, mercury and zinc and chlordane.

The groups expect the Regional Water Quality Control Board hearings will result later this year in a board recommendation for a cleanup order for San Diego Bay.


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