Regulators Call for Bay Cleanup

The work, which requires major dredging south of the bridge to clear out toxins such as copper and mercury, could start this year.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board on Wednesday ordered the dredging of sediment in San Diego Bay to remove heavy metals and other toxins near shipyards just south of the Coronado bridge.

The order calls for the dredging of 143,400 cubic yards of sediment from roughly 60 acres of bay bottom near shipyards and Naval Station San Diego. The work could begin as soon as September.

According to San Diego Coastkeeper, copper, mercury and a variety of other toxins on the bottom of the bay are a danger to marine life. Eating fish containing buildups of mercury or copper can also be a hazard.

"The regional board should be applauded for finally acknowledging this pollution and the harm it causes to human, environmental and economic health," said Jill Witkowski, legal director at San Diego Coastkeeper. "It's about time that we make those responsible for the pollution clean up their mess."

The amount of dredging required by the order is more than three times that of previous cleanups related naval shipbuilding in the area.

Warning signs posted around the bay advise against eating fish caught in the bay, but some people ignore them, according to the environmental group.

In 2003, Coastkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council successfully sued Southwest Marine, now BAE Systems, over the continued pollution related to shipbuilding and bottom-painting.

"This toxic pollution at the bottom of San Diego Bay prevents it from being safely fishable," Laura Hunter of the Environmental Health Coalition said. "This cleanup action will reduce pollution in the bay and is an important step toward improving a food source for many families that fish it to feed their children."


– City News Service


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