Navy “Waste Water” Running Off Sunset Cliffs Is “Routine Potable Water Flushing”

by on November 5, 2015 · 10 comments

in Environment, Health, Military, Ocean Beach

waste water PL andrew 10-24-15Back on October 26th, we posted an article about possible Navy waste water flowing down Sunset Cliffs into the ocean – as had been discovered by Andrew, one of our readers, while walking his dog south of the Nazarene college. Andrew took it upon himself to take photos and vid of the possible thousands of gallons of water he witnessed cascading down a gully of the cliffs, also possibly causing erosion of the protected area.

The water appeared to be coming from Navy facilities on Point Loma, directly to the east and up the hill. Andrew and others who surf in that area have concerns about the quality of the water, whether it was toxic or not, or just exactly what was in it.

To follow up on the apparent federal issue here, we contacted Congressman Scott Peters office and spoke with Brian Elliot, his rep for the OB and Point Loma area.  Brian, in turn, promptly contacted the Naval Base in Point Loma making an inquiry into the matter.

The Navy did respond to Elliot’s inquiry, and in doing so, they admitted the water coming down the cliffs was theirs, but assured him – and us – that the water was fine, as it was “potable water”. The Navy email memo cited that there was a recent water discharge on October 24th – which correlates with Andrew’s observations.

However, the Navy called it “routine potable water flushing”, stating it was allowable under their permit with the San Diego County Regional Water Quality Control Board. And the Navy said that this “potable water flushing is a standard practice used by water suppliers to ensure that water quality is safe and in compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act standards.”

Here is the Naval Base Point Loma’s memo to Brian Elliot of Peters’ office:

“Since receiving reports of a water discharge from a cliff near Naval Base Point Loma (NBPL), the Navy has been investigating potential outfalls and possible sources for the water flow at the beach.

The base reviewed San Diego County Regional Water Quality Control Board-permitted potable water discharge records, which indicate that routine potable water flushing was performed on October 24 from locations close to the reported discharge.

Potable water flushing is a standard practice used by water suppliers to ensure that water quality is safe and in compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act standards.

NBPL will continue to monitor its potable water discharges and the impact that the associated flow paths may have on the natural resources contained within the federal property line. NBPL remains committed to protecting the environment and meeting all environmental standards.”

At my prompting at the recent OB Planning Board meeting during Elliot’s presentation, he read the Navy memo – which, while assuring as to the quality of the water, generated new questions and a round of discussion by Board members.

The new questions are: why in a severe drought, is the Navy discharging good water? Why do they have to flush so much?

Also, there are still environmental concerns: what are the consequences of flushing thousands of gallons of fresh water into the salt water of the ocean, disturbing the life-cycles of salt-water animals and plants? Plus – what about the carving and erosion caused to the cliffs by the discharges? How often are the discharges – or flushes?

We appreciate Peters’ office and the Naval Base at Point Loma for responding to our initial fears and concerns so quickly. Now, there are new questions.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Oh Jeez.. November 5, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Great job Frank! This is just plain nuts…


cc November 5, 2015 at 3:41 pm

yea it would seem to me that most people/businesses would collect that water and water their yard with it…. buuut its the government we’re talking about and rules and droughts don’t apply to them.


PL Local November 5, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Thanks for the update Frank!

Somewhat glad to hear it was just water. But, couldn’t this “routine potable water flushing” be planned, and maybe used on well I don’t know, but all the grass at the cemetery? Or maybe you could spread it out over the vegetation above the cliffs and all along the point?

Wasting 10,000’s of gallons of “good/ok” water, that citizens end up having to pay for, when we are in a drought, and the water prices are about to go up, just doesn’t seem logical!


rick callejon November 5, 2015 at 4:48 pm

An oxymoron from the great George Carlin: military intelligence


Robert Minnow November 5, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Everything you read in the blurb from the base leadership is true. The water is de-chlorinated as it is flushed, so it is 100% safe for surfer and ocean life alike. The original complainant is totally wrong and has created many more problems and significant taxpayer expense because he wanted his name in the paper. There are stringent environmental standards the DoD is held to by both the state and federal governments. This is the People’s Republic of California, lest you forget. The problem is that much of the base infrastructure is over 50 years old, if not older. If you like the idea of wasting even more water than we do now, keep up the complaining and saber-rattling. IF WE DID NOT FLUSH POTABLE WATER TO MAINTAIN CHLORINE LEVELS: bacteria could colonize the piping and make the water unsafe for the men and women who defend us all. In addition, a bad bacteriological sample would mean countless MORE taxpayer dollars required in order to rectify the situation, and ultimately thousands upon thousands of gallons wasted disinfecting the distribution system piping.


Frank Gormlie November 6, 2015 at 9:37 am

Robert, thanks for your clarifications. However, by your reasoning, ordinary citizens should never question anything the military is doing.

The person who contacted the OB Rag after filming thousands of gallons of something flowing off the cliffs was definitely not seeking “his name in the paper” – he never even gave up his last name, and definitely has not “created many more problems and significant taxpayer expense” as you maintain.

Your characterization of this entire incident is way off base (pun intended) – and we stand by our endeavors to find out what was/ is happening on our land. We San Diegans understand aging infrastructure – as we face it daily. Much of it is even older than the Navy’s.


PL Local November 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Yeah dude I totally sent in this warning that the Military is carving a valley in the cliffs from their run off water just so I could get my name out there!

Let everyone at the Military know that it was me, Andrew! And if you have a problem, I’ll be happy to give you the finger.


CliffHanger November 8, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Robert, I wouldn’t go tramping out the cry of “countless MORE taxpayer dollars” being wasted by us simply asking questions and our representatives then spending their time … um, doing their jobs representing us … especially when it comes to your blind defense of anything the military might be doing.

Wake up call: at last check, the DoD is part of our government, not a separate entity having these nasty environmental concerns foisted upon it by evil gubmint agencies. And if you don’t like California following the will of the majority of its people and voting to save water, clean up the environment and other insane radical concepts, then hop on the 8 East, one way: Arizona isn’t far away.

Keep up the great work, Editor Dude!!! It would be wise to follow up on the unnecessary contribution to erosion of the cliffs by this practice.


John O. November 10, 2015 at 10:48 am

To the locals, if you see this again, I urge you to video tape it while getting a sample for analysis.


Genifer Slade November 11, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Just wait until they begin the project to renew the JP5 lines from Point Loma to Miramar…

Whoops, sorry! You guys are still on water, my bad.


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