Thursday, May 21, 2009
Dan Murphy started the meeting off by emphasizing that Surfrider will be part of a coalition of environmental agencies as well as community members that will focus on finding solutions for storm run off in an effort to decrease beach closures in Imperial Beach. Tours of Border Field State Park and the Tijuana Estuary will help volunteers to understand the issue and motivate them to act and bring more attention to the issue.
Belinda Smith referred to the Trestles campaign as an example of how a coalition force can work together and result in success. Beginning now the goal is to make more of a presence in the South Bay.
Scott Harrison addressed what some IB community members may have perceived as Surfrider’s lack of support for the border sewage problem. Although South Bay residents are not a large majority of the volunteer force, Scott remarked that anyone can become a member of the executive committee as a way to represent their community. Surfrider is excited to be involved and for the potential it provides for the issue and the Imperial Beach area.
Jeff Knox (IB resident, Tijuana River Citizen’s Council (TRCC) member). Jeff spoke with great passion about the history of surfing in Imperial Beach and its beginning in the 1930s with Dempsey Holder. In the 1960s South Coast and Wind and Sea Surfboards had their start in IB. Surfers would come all the way from Australia already familiar with IB and could and stay at the White House where Dempsey was caretaker. Jeff talked about the Sloughs, a deep water break and intimidating wave that’s half a mile from shore. The surfing trilogy Tijuana Straights is based on the Sloughs. Imperial Beach is an isolated community and the residents prefer it that way. However, Jeff invited everyone to come down and meet the people and experience the great surf. He ended with a special invite for anyone that is strong swimmer to surf the Sloughs in the wintertime. Just not after the first rain.
Jay Novak (IB resident, TRCC member, owner Novak Surfboard Designs)
Jay first noticed a problem in the ocean off Imperial Beach in the 1970s. He watched as the population in Tijuana increase drastically in a very short time period. And now he watches as rain events wash 250 million gallons of untreated water into the ocean. Last year the beach was closed 76 days and on average closures are 70 days per year. Jay, as a local business owner, appreciates the impact this has on local businesses and livelihoods as well as people’s health. For Jay, solutions lay in the two Japanese funded treatment plants which will address the San Antonio outfall. The outfall currently sends treated and untreated water into the ocean and is responsible for the odor of chlorine that accompanies a south swell. Also, progress is being made by the Tijuana River Recovery Team (TRRT) that focuses on trash and sediment that comes over the border. Plastics recycling in Mexico and trash collection close to the border will certainly need to be part of the solution. Jay stressed that government agencies need to work together and develop a timeline of goals and stick to them. Jay sees the ocean as a great asset to Imperial Beach and that while border sewage is a big problem with no easy solution; people working together creatively can help the issue.
Sarah Emerson (Tijuana River Estuary Community Outreach Coordinator)
Sarah encouraged people to get involved by participating in habitat restoration/clean up (next invasive plant removal is 5/9), the more healthy the habitat is the better the water will be. To learn more people can attend the speaker series at the estuary the 3rd saturday of each month (Greg Abbot on 5/16 will talk about endangered vegetation). Check out their website tijuanaestuary.org for more information and events calendar.
Rich Hildalgo (Imperial Beach Lifeguard)
Rich’s goal is to help people understand the water quality issue from the lifeguard perspective. The Imperial Beach lifeguards are proactive with regard to sewage: they take water samples and work closely with the Department of Environmental Health (DEH), a relationship that the lifeguards feel is good. Rich and his colleagues are the only lifeguards to take water samples. They receive on going training from the DEH and follow the specific procedures necessary for collecting the samples (before 11am, using sterilized bottles, etc.). Presently tests are conducted every 2-3 months, it’s up to the DEH, when the lifeguards get the call they take the samples. (Apparently funding is tight at the moment for testing) The current turn around time for getting test results is 24 hours from the time the samples are submitted to the DEH. According to Rich the only other testing being done is by the City of San Diego but this has not been done recently. However, last year San Diego Coastal Ocean Observing System (SDCOOS) (Rich wasn’t certain if it was SDCOOS, may have been different organization) received a grant through University of Southern California (USC) for smelly event sampling. The samples tested at USC underwent very detailed tests but no reports were ever received regarding the results as grant funding was stopped. Rich urged the public to report anything they notice to the lifeguards since they can’t be everywhere all the time and they will contact the DEH, take the proper steps and make an informed decision. DEH makes the determination as to whether or not to close the beach and the county issues the order to the lifeguards. The DEH decides where and which sign to post. An advisory posting (white sign) occurs when there is a renegade flow/unknown source. A rain event results in full closure (yellow sign). A yellow sign does not necessarily mean that a test has been done. Rich explained that after a significant rain event the smell alone is enough for the lifeguards to call the DEH but the signs go up before tests are taken in order to protect the public.
Roger Benham (lifelong IB resident, engineer)
Roger sees solutions to the border sewage problem as technical in nature and something that can be done on the US side of the border. His fear is that sending volunteers out to pick up trash is a futile effort and the photos of the massive amounts pollution will be the same 20 years from now. Roger has researched long term solutions to address the problems of sewage, trash and erosion products flowing into San Diego from Tijuana. The three components include a bypass channel, trash reclamation facility and technology center and advanced separation unit. Contact Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Closing Questions & Comments
Community members in attendance praised the Rich and his fellow lifeguards for the job they do collecting samples and protecting the public.
Dick Tynan mentioned that the San Diego County Water Authority is meeting on new wetlands to be located just west of Smuggler’s Gulch, $28 million to fund the Tijuana River Valley and an additional $250,000 for trash boom. Dick proposed an idea to Congressman Filner regarding a $0.25 toll at the border crossing to raise money for the pollution problem. Surfrider may be able to draft a letter regarding this idea so that others can support it. Also announced was that the Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association (TRVEA) is organizing a trash pick up on June 6th from 9am to noon. Meet at Hollister Street.
Jim King (city council member, resident of IB) is glad Surfrider has renewed interest in the South Bay and brings credibility and energy to the border sewage issue.
One community member asked about a symposium where all the agencies could gather to share information. Sarah Emerson responded that the Tijuana Estuary has regular public meetings with a symposium like format that would provide an opportunity for the coalition members to communicate.
Post Meeting Discussions
Belinda and Keri discussed the possibility of using the QwikLite Biosensor System for the IB lifeguards to do their own testing. More research into the monitoring kit and input from Rich Hildalgo needed.
Belinda spoke with Kyle Knox and he agreed to attach his name to the campaign. Possibly do a video w/Marty.
SAN DIEGO — Several environmental groups say California's budget crisis has crippled efforts to solve ocean pollution at beaches near the Mexican border. In its 2009 Beach Report Card, Heal the Bay says state cutbacks in beach water monitoring endangers public health. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce has the latest on the health of the county's beaches.
Heal the Bay says anyone playing in the ocean at most San Diego County beaches last summer enjoyed near-perfect water quality.
The Santa Monica-based group graded 93 beaches in the county as part of its annual statewide study. The grades are based on levels of bacterial pollution.
The better the grade, the lower the risk of illness to ocean users.
Heal the Bay water quality director Kirsten James says 97 percent of San Diego beaches received an A.
"San Diego beach water quality was excellent during the dry weather," says James.
But she says when it rains that brings pollution to local beaches.
"Several locations at Oceanside that received low grades in wet weather," James says. "We had some south San Diego beaches that received F's in wet weather. The Tijuana River Mouth, the Border Field State Park at Monument Road, Imperial Beach at Carnation Street."
James says in Ocean Beach, the jetty and Dog Beach were also given F's.
She says 29 San Diego County beaches were closed last year because of sewage spills.
James is now worried that beach water quality monitoring could be further hurt by the state's budget crisis.
Last September Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $1 million in beach water quality testing funds.
"And the County of San Diego Environmental Heatlh Department cut back completely its program in September of 2008," James says. "So in essence, a lot of these beaches are a swim at your own risk because there's just simply not the data to get a grade out there and educate the public."
While the County Board of Supervisors provided over $100,000 to revive the county's ocean monitoring program that money only paid for sampling a third of the county's beaches over the winter.
This summer the county plans to monitor beach water quality at a few of the most popular beaches.
Bruce Reznik with San Diego Coastkeeper says cutting state funding for ocean water quality testing is not just a public health issue, it also hurts the state's economy.
"Coastal tourism is estimated at somewhere over $40 billion statewide," Reznik says. "In San Diego it's $4 to-$6 billion, it supports well over 100,000 jobs in the tourism industry. So if we're cutting off our monitoring and we're taking a step backward in protecting our beaches and not making the public aware of the health of our waterways, ultimately it's going to impact our economy here in the San Diego region."
The budget crunch also has compromised efforts to tackle chronic pollution at beaches near the Mexican border. A state-funded source-tracking study in the Tijuana Estuary was shut down due to funding cuts last year. The study is expected to resume next year.
Sewage-contaminated plumes from the Tijuana River caused 14 beach closures from Coronado to the Mexican border over the last year.
Serge Dedina is the executive director with Imperial Beach-based Wildcoast.
He says progress is being made to reduce the border sewage.
"They're building a secondary treatment plant," Dedina says. "The regional water quality control board has sort of an advisory group or task force, they're working to solve some of the trash and sediment problems. And more importantly we have to proactively work with Mexico and the state of Baja California to put more infrastructure in Tijuana."
Dedina says he expects those and other efforts will lead to cleaner waters at Imperial Beach.
That would be excellent news to Hector Leos of Chula Vista who was surfing near the Imperial Beach pier.
Leos has been surfing for more than 20 years in the area.
"I mean there's a lot of pesticides out there, chemicals that can cause danger, mercury, lead, all that. But when you're addicted to the beach what can you do?"
Health officials say Leos and other beach users should stay out of the water for three days after it rains.
Officials say bacterial levels usually exceed state health standards after rains carry pollution to the ocean.
The Heal the Bay report says while beach communities have made strides to reduce dry weather pollution, more work is needed to limit the harmful effects of storm water runoff on coastal water quality.
Ed Joyce, KPBS News.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
by Liz Gill
Monday, May 18, 2009
Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST and a longtime surfer in Imperial Beach. You can reach him via wildcoast.net.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
High levels of pollutants and pathogens often exist in cities as an unintended by-product of development. With so many people living so close to the ocean, much of these harmful materials that makes it into the environment eventually gets washed into the sea. Rainwater rinses the land by collecting materials as it flows downhill, picking up loose soil, pebbles and organic material. As water moves it either soaks into the earth or collects at low points such as rivers, lakes, or the ocean. Soil, rocks and plants, both on land and in aquatic environments act as filters. They efficiently trap and remove from stormwater materials that range in size from large leaves and sticks to invisible dissolved metals. San Diego’s coastal wetlands are particularly important both in their trapping ability and their role as the final filter between land and ocean.
Today, however, California has lost over 90% of its coastal wetlands to development. Throughout our cities we have turned soft earth into hard surfaces such as buildings, roads and parking lots. These surfaces block water from soaking into the earth and speed up the rate at which water flows downhill. Development has stripped away many rocks and plants, which can make areas of land unstable. Although the natural environment still has the capacity to filter storm water, there is much less exposed earth available to do it. Humans have also introduced new materials into the environment, including pollutants such as motor oil, pesticides, animal waste, and trash, all of which get swept up in the torrents of water that flow across the land when it rains.
To read the rest of the article please check it out on the San Diego Union Tribune's website here:
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