Why Is Navy Waste Water Carving Valleys in Point Loma?

by on October 26, 2015 · 15 comments

in Environment, Life Events, Military, Ocean Beach

waste water PL andrew 10-24-15

Water flowing over the cliffs directly into the ocean, Oct. 24, 2015. Photo by Andrew. (This is not a video.)

One of our local readers, Andrew, was visiting the beaches along Sunset Cliffs on Saturday, October 24th. He was walking way south of Ladera Street with his dog.

It was low tide, so he could walk around the point the cliffs make south of the famous surfing spot known as Newbreak. He wanted the beach all to himself and his dog. At low tides, it is possible to walk along the beaches and rocks for many blocks south of Ladera, south of the Pt Loma Natural Park, south of the college.

waste water PL Loc And

Area where Andrew was walking on beaches below Sunset Cliffs. Marker is his approximate location when he witnessed the water flow. (click on image for larger one)

However, as Andrew told us in an email, when he made it to the other side of the point – at the location marked in the graphic – he was greeted with hundreds if not thousands of gallons of water washing off the cliff side. According to his location as he indicated, he was standing on the beach directly west of the military and US Navy facilities.

Andrew said the cliff in his photo used “to be one continuous cliff ….” He doesn’t know – and neither do we – where the water is coming from, what’s in it, whether it’s waste water or toxic run-off. But he is convinced that whatever it is – the run-off has caused a huge valley to form.

He took a 30-second video of the water rushing down, but he said that water flowed over the cliff for a good hour before he left. He also told us that he changed his mind about going into the water – “even though there were a dozen or so surfers out, because I had no idea what kind of run off was going directly into the ocean.”

Finally, Andrew told us:

I want this brought to the public’s attention. These are our cliffs, these are what protects us from the ocean.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

bodysurferbob October 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

cow-a-bunga dude! bet some gamy surfer or skateboarder is willing to take on that slide.


want2surf October 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm

From the aerial photo it looks like there’s a ravine from the Navy facility to that spot that has probably been there or developing over many years. This water, or run-off or sewage is probably responsible for some of the beach being there as it erodes the cliff.

Great discovery…

Next step, Editor Dude? Is this a chronic discharge that has been contributing to many of us getting infections while out surfing the Cliffs? Is it a water system leak? How does one get the Navy to investigate? Maybe the Coastal Commission? Surfrider? Coastkeeper?


PL Local October 26, 2015 at 4:00 pm

I’d tried contacting Surfrider and Coastkeeper. No word back yet.


blinky the surfer October 26, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I saw that mystery liquid seeping from the cliffs on Saturday, after surfing in the water for at least 1.5 hrs when a mate said he noticed it. I saw it last year as well… same spot. Yes, erosion is certainly an issue, but I am more concerned about the contents of the run-off. I know the military is unregulated, so I doubt it is some extra water they didn’t need for their indoor rose garden. Thanks for shining a light on this, I doubt much will come of it (as the military answers to no one) but hey, it’s worth a shot.


John O. October 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I was surfing out there with a couple of friends. We saw it as well. I felt really tired that night… probably from surfing, but I hope my body wasn’t fighting off some weird runoff bacteria or something.

I’m glad somebody was able to document it. The org on the bluffs above should have to answer for this. I’m sure Surfrider would like to see the footage.


PL Local October 26, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Here is a link to the video.



Joe Ewing October 26, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Before 9/11 there was a foot path across the top of the bluff. Only an old rusty barb wire fence blocked the way and it had a huge hole in it. The flat meadow was chest deep in yellow flowers and the trail was usually swallowed by them. Eventually the trail ended at the ravine near the rusted hulk of a car that almost made it to the beach. The walls of the ravine were made of of layers of ancient marine shells and if you tried to collect one it crumbled into dust in your hand. The end was sudden, just a flat rock to stand on then a 15 foot drop to the sandy beach. A steel bar had been pounded into the cliffside with a knotted rope attached. If you were lucky the surfers hadn’t cut it. This was the locals way in and out. Now the government has totally blocked this access and now uses the old ravine as a storm drain..


PL Local October 26, 2015 at 4:09 pm

I still see kids on the “Top-side”, but very rarely.

Way way down, there are also some super old drainage lines that go from the top side to the beach below. I’ve seen some kooks try to go in them, but I warn them of how unstable it could be. However, some people have used those old drain lines to get up and off the beach when the tide comes in.

Also, thanks for the memories of pre-9/11


PGR October 26, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Used to take that route all the time in the late 70s/early 80s. You had to time it right to avoid the military police.


editordude October 26, 2015 at 7:04 pm

We wish to thank Andrew for his diligence, his photos, his patience and passion in wishing to get this story out. We also thank the surfers who know about this for chiming in, validating Andrew’s observations.

We apologize to Andrew and our readers, however, as we just don’t have the resources to go further into this story, sending out teams to test the water, to contact the Navy and see what’s up. But if anyone can do that, and does, please let us know. We’re citizen journalists but without much financial backing.


Lori Saldaña October 26, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Thank you Andrew- citizen activism is often the “thin green line” protecting our regional water quality from illegal water/sewage dischargers.

FYI- For decades, the biggest source of water pollution discharged into our local coast has been…yes, the Navy, via sewage discharges from Camp Pendleton and other leaks, permitted and otherwise. The state’s Regional Water Quality Control board (RWQCB) has cited them numerous times for violations of their permits.

So…keep up the good work! Let the RWQCB know what you are documenting.

And, for a view of what I’ve done as a “citizen,” check out http://www.netconnection.com/outfall


embo October 26, 2015 at 8:42 pm

Maybe the City could get involved (wink,wink Tim).


w October 27, 2015 at 6:09 am

water line break was tap water not sewage or waste line . you can smell tap water by the clorine


John O. October 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

BTW, next time get a sample for analysis. It can be submitted to one of the orgs.


PL Local October 28, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Smart. I’ll do that next time, if I ever see it again.


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