continued * * *
"Look!" shouts Moser. He's whipped his glasses up to the stern of a Navy amphibious transport ship being refurbished in the floating dock. It has giant curtains pulled halfway out from either side, but a 20-foot opening remains in the middle. We've gotten closer to it. The racket from what sounds like paint-chippers and generators is getting louder.
"Keep watching on the top deck," says Moser. "The cloudiness. Some type of air emission is being blown out through the opening of the containment curtain. Any time when there's a possibility of pollution, they're supposed to be fully enclosed. There's dust coming out of that dry dock!"
Harbor Police come by in their launch, Point Loma. "See?" he says. "They're looking at us. They're not even looking at the dust. At a potential violation of federal law taking place on Port property right now! That's why citizens have to be here. And that's why I'm angry about it."
It turns out the "dust" cloud is high-pressure water spray mist. But Moser says hydro-blasting is just as bad. We can see a shadowy worker up there, underneath the ship's hull, jetting water around its twin rudders. That mist, says Moser, will be laden with small flecks and particles from the bottom paint, which contains toxic chemicals like copper, lead, cadmium, and zinc, designed to poison barnacles.
"Even though it looks like a small amount on a given day, think years and years, day in and day out, when [Southwest's] contributions of hazardous waste, heavy metals, oils, greases, solvents, enter these waters.... They aren't on the surface for long, but they end up on the bottom of this bay, and they're there for a long, long time - if we don't stop this."
But isn't San Diego Bay the California Regional Water Quality Control Board's responsibility? And how about the Port District, the public's stewards of the bay? "You know the history of the Water Quality Board and the Port?" asks Steve Crandall. "Neither of those entities have been terribly effective in any kind of enforcement, and that's putting it mildly. They never sue anybody! When was the last time the Water Board enforced a case in court - against anybody, big or small? The issue is, they basically don't do it. So there's plenty of room for citizen enforcement in San Diego." "We don't sue people," agrees John Robertus, executive officer of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Diego Region. "But we do apply graduated actions, ranging from what's called '13267 letters' - which warn entities they are polluting - to fines to criminal charges.
"But we are public officials." Robertus continues. "I have been accused [by Baykeeper] of 'kowtowing to industry.' It's not true. I have a clear conscience. [Baykeeper] can spend 100 percent of their efforts on pollution in the bay. We can't. We must look at industrial [runoff], sewage treatment, landfills, underground tank sites, chemically contaminated sites. There's no way I can compete on specific problems....." Still, for all his stretched resources, Robertus says he is "optimistic" that Southwest and all five shipyards in the bay will come up to required environmental standards.
Moser doesn't buy it. "I don't have Mr. Robertus's budget," he says. "I don't have his staff. But I have the evidence of violations on shipyards that are under his jurisdiction. You tell me why I can [make things happen] with a staff of four people and a budget that I would bet is a tenth of his. He needs some new marching orders from the regional board."
"I invite Baykeeper - Moser - to come over and show us where [Southwest Marine's] violations are," says Ralph Hicks, the Port's director of planning and environmental management. "We'd be happy to look at it. If he has specific allegations [against Southwest], we'll go out and do a compliance inspection."
Again, Moser is not impressed. "Under this charter, they're supposed to protect [the bay], for the beneficial uses of all the citizens of this region, not just their own tenants [like Southwest]. And when they allow their tenants to violate federal and state laws, the Port is as guilty as the Water Board of failing to do their job." Southwest's chief, Ed Ewing, did not return calls. The company's director of public relations, Jackie Kreisler, said, "It is our company's policy not to comment on pending litigation."