Editor: The pollution and clean-up of San Diego Bay have been issues for decades. It was one of the issues I pushed when I ran for City Council in 1987. Now, it’s not really surprising that economics plays a strong role during the current Great Recession in this new agreement between our Regional Water Quality Control Board and those heavy polluters. (Frank Gormlie)
By Mike Lee / Union-Tribune / Originally published January 6, 2010
Nearly five years after regional water-pollution cops announced a landmark order to clean toxic muck in San Diego Bay, they’re back with a plan that would remove just 16 percent of the sediment targeted initially.
The latest strategy was crafted during months of confidential talks with groups on the hook for the work. It’s expected to cost about half of the $96 million price tag from the original cleanup order, which the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board spent years developing so it could withstand courtroom challenges.
Critics contend that the new approach reflects a common tactic by industry: threatening litigation and stalling costly environmental projects until new, more business-friendly regulators take office.
They also believe the revised proposal won’t take out enough mercury, lead and cancer-causing compounds that have accumulated since the early 1900s because of pollution by heavy industry, military operations and storm runoff. Scientists and community activists have long feared that the contaminants are harming marine life and endangering people who eat fish and shellfish from the bay.
“It’s obvious — the less you clean up, the less you have to pay,” said Laura Hunter, director of the Clean Bay Campaign for the Environmental Health Coalition in National City. “I am very concerned that they figured out how much they were willing to spend and out pops how much they can clean up. That is just not the right way.”
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