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— “I am concerned that by putting in these pollutant structures they are only treating the pollutant du jour, and it gives the citizens the false assumption that they don’t have to worry about what they are putting down the storm drains. In reality, for people dumping their motor oil upstream, this project isn’t going to do squat for that.”

Kirsten James, water quality scientist for Heal the Bay, a Santa Monica–based nonprofit organization that focuses on California’s coastal waters, says the City of Oceanside is acting in a manner similar to other coastal cities. “I know, in general, a lot of communities are working first to meet standards in the dry weather. We support this approach, because during dry weather is when the health risk is greatest because of all the people at the beach. Naturally, we want the water to be safe all year round, but it’s going to take some steps in order to get there.”

In the neighboring coastal town of Encinitas, where Cottonwood Creek flows toward Moonlight Beach, an ultraviolet treatment facility was built in 2002. The plant cost under $2 million, though it is smaller than Oceanside’s plant. Instead of a sturdy cinder-block building, the Encinitas facility is housed in a metal storage container and has filters that are half the size of Oceanside’s.

During typical summer flow, the Encinitas facility treats nearly 135 gallons per minute, says Eric Steenblock, water quality manager for Encinitas. “It’s primarily on during the dry summer months. It’s not completely taken off-line during the wet season, because there could potentially be some dry periods. If we go two weeks without a rain event during the wet months, the facility is still on, but if we anticipate rain, then we’re out there shutting it off.”

Before Encinitas built its ultraviolet treatment facility, Moonlight Beach was closed, on average, 40 times per year. After the facility was built, the average dropped to 6.

Pennell is looking forward to seeing similar results in Oceanside. “For the entire dry season I’m going to monitor the process — the raw water, the water through the system, and the discharged water. It will be fun. We monitor it everywhere, you know, ’cause we’re a beach town, and we don’t want to be a beach town and say, ‘Oh, we’ve got contamination.’ ”

For Pennell, the fun is set to start on July 7, when he says testing will begin on Loma Alta Creek Ultra-Violet Treatment Facility. The City will run water from the slough through the facility and back into the slough for a week. Then the beach outfall pipeline will be connected, says Pennell, and the treated water will go onto Buccaneer Beach.

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