Experts Downplay Concerns that Mission Bay Is “Gross” at Public Forum

by on June 26, 2013 · 1 comment

in Culture, Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Mission Bay googleOver a hundred local residents gathered at the ZLAC Rowing Club in their northwest Mission Bay headquarters last night for a forum on whether Mission Bay is “gross”.  Sponsored by San Diego Coastkeeper and the rowing club –  America’s oldest women’s rowing club, the public forum was held to address concerns about water quality of the bay.

A number of experts addressed the audience – which had its own concerns about the bay – a bay that is one of the West Coast’s largest aquatic parks and has thousands of visitors every year.

Historically, Mission Bay has suffered conditions that have made it very polluted, especially in the eastern section – which does not experience the same flushing action as the more western parts of it.  Pollution from urban run-off, from bird fecal matter, and from other sources have contributed to this condition.

The most polluted area of Mission Bay is in the eastern section, right off the shore from the shuttered Visitors Center.

10News reported that:

According to the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, in 2012, there were 42 rain advisory days, 53 bacterial exceedance advisory days and 68 precautionary advisory days — a total of 163 days in which people were told to stay out of the county’s water.

This report concerned San Diego beaches – not just Mission Bay.

For some reason, 7San Diego reported that “According to County Environmental Health, local beaches were closed for a total of 30 days in 2012 because of unsafe waters.”

At any rate, the public forum heard from a panel of experts who tried to reassure the audience that ‘no, Mission Bay is not gross’, and yes, there are some areas of concern but ‘the City is maintaining the bay’s health.’

Members of Coastkeeper told the audience that health impacts resulting from poor water quality are minimal.

Audience members expressed concerns about the urban runoff and the uses of Mission Bay by humans with their engines and motors that could be making people sick.

Mission Bay itself will be soon benefiting from $2 million in improvements. The money is generated by businesses, fees, rents from leases, and other revenue from Mission Bay.  For years, beach activists have bemoaned the fact that often City Hall would siphon off monies raised from these sources for the City’s general fund. Now, that money will stay in the bay.

We are not certain whether it was addressed or not, but it’s an historical fact, that one of the biggest polluters of Mission Bay is SeaWorld.

Earlier in 2012,  SeaWorld was fined $6,000 for dumping excessive ammonia and animal waste into the Bay. (See Fox5 video here and “SeaWorld Cited for Exceeding Mission Bay Effluent Limits” in an article by Matt Potter, March 20, 2012 in the San Diego Reader.)

SeaWorld is the largest discharger of water into the Bay and has been a known polluter of the body of water, as the bay has been on California’s list of impaired water bodies for several years as it does not meet the Clean Water Act standards.

Beginning in 2004, Clean Water Act violations against SeaWorld began surfacing when several shocking complaints had been made public.  One local observer cites: “In the year 2000 SeaWorld’s water quality permit was violated eight consecutive times within a six month period. It was violated again in the year 2002.”

There were more violations:

“the California Regional Water Control Board also brought forth more shocking information. The agency states the following, “Since April 13, 2005, there have been numerous violations of effluent limitations at the facility, including three exceedances of Ammonia, six exceedances of Enterococcus, and one exceedance of Total coliform. Furthermore, there have been multiple months in which required sampling was not reported. The constituents not sampled have included pH, Total coliform, Fecal Coliform, Enterococcus, and Total Residual Chlorine.”

Back in 2012, San Diego Park’s communications director David Koontz commented:

“Exceedences in conjunction with our water discharge permit are very infrequent and have never had a detrimental impact to the overall health of Mission Bay. We take our environmental responsibility very seriously and are proud to be excellent stewards of Mission Bay.”

This statement was made in the face of SeaWorld’s citations for pollution dozens of times within the past 13 years.  Koontz also claimed that SeaWorld does not impact the health of Mission Bay.

Yet, the San Diego Pollution Program was once managed by Donna Frye,who was critical of the City and SeaWorld:

“For too long, the city has failed to protect the natural resources of Mission Bay. Almost every day, one or more areas of Mission Bay is posted with signs warning of unsafe levels of bacteria. Mission Bay does not support its beneficial uses and is listed as an impaired water body due to coliform bacteria. This problem can no longer be ignored.”

The bay is also on the top ten list of California’s most polluted beaches. To say that SeaWorld has no responsibility for the pollution of Mission Bay is entirely false since SeaWorld is the largest discharger of water into the bay.”

In an earlier article, the OB Rag reported:

There’s other issues of pollution that SeaWorld is directly involved in.  Did you ever wonder where on earth SeaWorld takes the waste from its large mammals? It doesn’t take the crap very far – it’s dumped right off the shore from the facility itself, and there are mountains of underwater Orca dung between the waterworld and Fiesta Island.

Then there’s the nighty fireworks that SeaWorld sets off over Mission Bay during the summer months. It has been proven that fireworks debris – the kind that falls into the water after the shows – harms wildlife.  And just exactly how many nights do the fireworks go off?

7San Diego and 10News

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JEC June 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I see the issue getting split – Seaworld pollution and bird fecal pollution. Which is more intractable? Bird poop accounts for over 70% of the fecal coliform pollution at enclosed beaches. Up the coast harbor beaches similar to Mission Bay have been required to find solutions to chase the birds away from public areas. Think of the rocks recently cleaned in La Jolla; think about swimming in it. The seals and birds have made a come back; now we must deal with the poop. Then there’s Seaworld – a little adjusting in human thinking could fix that.


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