GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

San Diego initiates legal action on bay contamination

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 21, 2009

We just had news about additional groundwater contamination near Qualcomm Stadium and now comes a report that the city filed a lawsuit against over a dozen companies, the port district, and the Navy over contamination in San Diego Bay.  San Diego CityBeat broke the news with a detailed story on Tuesday and also posted a copy of the lawsuit.  The San Diego Union-Tribune has a report in today’s paper.  Here are relevant links:


One Response to “San Diego initiates legal action on bay contamination”

  1. GrokSurf said

    A comment from La Playa Heritage posted to the San Diego Union-Tribune report added some interesting details to this story. I’m reprinting a slightly edited version here with La Playa Heritage’s permission.

    The complaint by Gordon & Rees is great in that it discusses the historical sources of pollution, but forgets to add the City of San Diego as a major Polluter and as the main cause of paint in San Diego Bay sediments. This project should be a Federal Superfund Site because of the historic contamination and dumping of raw sewage by everyone who lived in San Diego from 1850 to 1963.

    Prior to 1941, all sewage in the City of San Diego east to Lemon Grove was dumped directly into San Diego Bay through the City of San Diego’s storm drains and sewer system. During WW II the City of San Diego created a waste plant that emptied into San Diego Bay in the middle of the 32nd Street Naval Station yard. Because of WW II and the unaccounted for influx of navy personnel, the sewage treatment plant overflowed and was out of capacity before it was built and online.

    When the Navy’s mothball fleet was decommissioned after World War II, the United States mothball fleet was home ported at the 32nd Street Naval Station. In 1952, the City of San Diego dumped 50 million gallons of raw sewage a day into the San Diego Bay as overflow from the City owned sewer system.

    See the 1955 report for an investigation into damage to paint on the Navy mothball fleet. The Reserve Fleet was disintegrating, falling apart, and rusting due to the acidic nature of the raw City of San Diego sewage. The raw sewage created pitting and corrosion of the reserve fleet. “Inactive ships of the Pacific Reserve Fleet moored in San Diego Bay are being heavily damaged by intense pitting corrosion of their plates. The highest concentration of pits occurs in a narrow zone about six inches wide just below the water line.” Massive amount of paint was corroded off the Navy ships into the Bay sediments. The Navy’s mothball fleet was moved out of San Diego Bay, and the City of San Diego opened up the Point Loma Waste Water Treatment Plant in 1963 to divert the raw sewage from entering San Diego Bay and destroying our National Homeland Security.

    The complaint is also wrong in that the NASSCO shipyard moved into the area of sediment contamination in 1960, not 1945 as documented in the complaint. There are many scientific reports of dead zones and black sludge beds in east San Diego Bay before NASSCO moved into the area in 1960.

    The City of San Diego also forgot about the 1913 Standard Oil fire where all 12 tanks and the warehouse went up in flames and spilled multi-million gallons of gasoline, crude oil, and kerosene into San Diego Bay. The sediments contaminated by the 1913 fuel spill were then covered up by reclaimed tidelands that created the shipyard areas.

    The City of San Diego is very much to blame for the dumping of sewage, the historic contamination of Chollas Creek, and the storm drains that empty into the bay before the existence of the shipyards.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s