Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

San Diego sewage hurting the Pt. Loma kelp beds?

Not a black-and-white case

If San Diego is eventually forced to build a multi-billion-dollar secondary sewage treatment system, the legal mandate for such an undertaking will be found in Federal Judge Paudi Brewster’s ruling on March 28. After an eight-week trial on the issue of whether the city should be penalized for its dismal record of sewage spills and noncompliance with the Federal Clean Water Act, Brewster found, among other things, that the city’s dumping of treated sewage into the ocean constituted a health risk to divers in the Point Loma kelp beds. This public health factor, he wrote, “is the most significant to the court,” overshadowing the decline in starfish population near the end of the outfall pipe and more important than the debatable effects the treated effluent is having on the southern portion of the kelp bed. Brewster fined the city $3 million and harshly criticized its dithering political leadership.

Brewster’s contention that diving in the kelp is a health risk may have a basis in law, but its basis in physical reality is virtually nonexistent. No sick divers were presented at the trial, and testimony from scientists who’ve conducted more than 17,000 dives in the most bacteria-laden sections of the kelp bed asserted that not a single diver of theirs had become ill. “There simply is no evidence of diver illness in the kelp beds,” insists Paul Drayton, a marine biologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has studied the Point Loma kelp forests for the last 20 years. Mia Tegner, a Scripps research biologist who runs a diving program in the kelp bed, also testified at the trial. “If anybody should get sick, it would be us,” she explains, pointing out that her divers work in the areas of the kelp bed with the highest coliform bacteria counts. “I really worry about my own health and that of my divers. I look for illness related to diving near the outfall – and it’s just not there.” Tegner says that after she read Brewster’s decision she wondered, “Was I at the same trial?”

Since sick divers don’t seem to exist, the plaintiffs in the case, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sierra Club, had to rely on a 1986 survey of divers conducted by consultants for the City of San Diego. This known as the Conway Study, named after San Diego State University Professor John B. Conway, the lead investigator. The survey – not a formal health study – found that out of 1024 dives performed by 316 divers, there were 8 reports of illness that might be attributable to the effluent from the outfall. The survey emphasizes that “these symptoms were reported by the divers and were not checked for validity.” It concludes that the approximately 8 illnesses (primarily vomiting and fever) per 1000 dives is well below EPA standards of 19 allowable illnesses per 1000 swimmers.

In trial testimony, it became a battle of the experts on the plane of theory, conjecture, and abstraction. The plaintiffs’ experts argued that, given the number of diver illnesses concentrated near the outfall, if those numbers were projected out on the basis of 1000 dives in that area, the number of illnesses exceeded 19 per 1000. The plaintiffs also used the imminent treatment of 13 million gallons a day of Tijuana’s sewage at the Point Loma sewage plant as a kind of scare tactic, the implication being that the Third World waste was particularly dangerous. Brewster specifically cited this point in his ruling.

Robert Simmons, the Sierra Club’s attorney, acknowledges that “there aren’t a whole lot of documented reports of (diver) illness. But there’s one huge suspicion. There was testimony that bacterial and viral levels in the kelp bed are probably much greater than the city tests show.” As for the Scripps scientists, Simmons declares that Drayton and Tegner came to the trial “with one aim: that the city ought not to be compelled to upgrade its sewage treatment.” He claims that other Scripps scientists are in disagreement with them. “You’re not going to find a whole lot of sick divers who can point to the kelp beds as the source of their illness,” Simmons continues, “but the evidence strongly supports the judge’s decision. He has to consider future increases in the amount of sewage being treated.”

In a related decision last week, Brewster ruled that signs be posted in dive shops warning of potential danger from diving in the Point Loma kelp beds. Paul Drayton of Scripps can only shake his head. He believes the Sierra Club was on the wrong side in the case, because the sludge left over from increased sewage treatment is a much more serious environmental threat than what’s happening in the kelp bed. “The irony of it is, in the environment, which is so complicated, you can’t have a black-and-white case. But the sewage outfall and the kelp bed is almost black and white. The effluent is hurting neither the divers nor the kelp.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Kanye West for president

Will San Diego voters be lining up at the polls?
Next Article

First Cow: mooving picture

Carve out a culinary slice of the American dream

If San Diego is eventually forced to build a multi-billion-dollar secondary sewage treatment system, the legal mandate for such an undertaking will be found in Federal Judge Paudi Brewster’s ruling on March 28. After an eight-week trial on the issue of whether the city should be penalized for its dismal record of sewage spills and noncompliance with the Federal Clean Water Act, Brewster found, among other things, that the city’s dumping of treated sewage into the ocean constituted a health risk to divers in the Point Loma kelp beds. This public health factor, he wrote, “is the most significant to the court,” overshadowing the decline in starfish population near the end of the outfall pipe and more important than the debatable effects the treated effluent is having on the southern portion of the kelp bed. Brewster fined the city $3 million and harshly criticized its dithering political leadership.

Brewster’s contention that diving in the kelp is a health risk may have a basis in law, but its basis in physical reality is virtually nonexistent. No sick divers were presented at the trial, and testimony from scientists who’ve conducted more than 17,000 dives in the most bacteria-laden sections of the kelp bed asserted that not a single diver of theirs had become ill. “There simply is no evidence of diver illness in the kelp beds,” insists Paul Drayton, a marine biologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has studied the Point Loma kelp forests for the last 20 years. Mia Tegner, a Scripps research biologist who runs a diving program in the kelp bed, also testified at the trial. “If anybody should get sick, it would be us,” she explains, pointing out that her divers work in the areas of the kelp bed with the highest coliform bacteria counts. “I really worry about my own health and that of my divers. I look for illness related to diving near the outfall – and it’s just not there.” Tegner says that after she read Brewster’s decision she wondered, “Was I at the same trial?”

Since sick divers don’t seem to exist, the plaintiffs in the case, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sierra Club, had to rely on a 1986 survey of divers conducted by consultants for the City of San Diego. This known as the Conway Study, named after San Diego State University Professor John B. Conway, the lead investigator. The survey – not a formal health study – found that out of 1024 dives performed by 316 divers, there were 8 reports of illness that might be attributable to the effluent from the outfall. The survey emphasizes that “these symptoms were reported by the divers and were not checked for validity.” It concludes that the approximately 8 illnesses (primarily vomiting and fever) per 1000 dives is well below EPA standards of 19 allowable illnesses per 1000 swimmers.

In trial testimony, it became a battle of the experts on the plane of theory, conjecture, and abstraction. The plaintiffs’ experts argued that, given the number of diver illnesses concentrated near the outfall, if those numbers were projected out on the basis of 1000 dives in that area, the number of illnesses exceeded 19 per 1000. The plaintiffs also used the imminent treatment of 13 million gallons a day of Tijuana’s sewage at the Point Loma sewage plant as a kind of scare tactic, the implication being that the Third World waste was particularly dangerous. Brewster specifically cited this point in his ruling.

Robert Simmons, the Sierra Club’s attorney, acknowledges that “there aren’t a whole lot of documented reports of (diver) illness. But there’s one huge suspicion. There was testimony that bacterial and viral levels in the kelp bed are probably much greater than the city tests show.” As for the Scripps scientists, Simmons declares that Drayton and Tegner came to the trial “with one aim: that the city ought not to be compelled to upgrade its sewage treatment.” He claims that other Scripps scientists are in disagreement with them. “You’re not going to find a whole lot of sick divers who can point to the kelp beds as the source of their illness,” Simmons continues, “but the evidence strongly supports the judge’s decision. He has to consider future increases in the amount of sewage being treated.”

In a related decision last week, Brewster ruled that signs be posted in dive shops warning of potential danger from diving in the Point Loma kelp beds. Paul Drayton of Scripps can only shake his head. He believes the Sierra Club was on the wrong side in the case, because the sludge left over from increased sewage treatment is a much more serious environmental threat than what’s happening in the kelp bed. “The irony of it is, in the environment, which is so complicated, you can’t have a black-and-white case. But the sewage outfall and the kelp bed is almost black and white. The effluent is hurting neither the divers nor the kelp.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Loco Lopez takes brunch over the top

Cheese-wrapped burrito and donut grilled cheese at OB pop-up
Next Article

San Diego Ritz Carlton greases the political skids

Sempra's covid donations run out
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close