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Bacteria contamination to be reduced in the San Diego region's creeks and beaches

New restrictions to reduce bacteria contamination in the San Diego area creeks and beaches

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December 20, 2007 -- A mandatory plan to reduce bacteria contamination in the region's creeks and beaches over the next decade has been approved by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Currently, surfers and swimmers are at risk for illnesses unless they stay out of the ocean for three days after a storm because of high bacteria levels in urban runoff.

The new regulation requires cities from Laguna Beach to Imperial Beach and as far inland as the Cleveland National Forest – watersheds that comprise 1,730 square miles – to work together to make waterways and beaches safer for public recreation.

No cost estimates were available on how much local governments will have to spend to comply with the new bacteria limits. Most already are working on measures to reduce bacteria contamination under a regionwide storm-water permit issued earlier this year by the water-quality board. But local governments are worried that they won't have enough money or technological solutions to reduce bacteria levels beyond what is already required, making them vulnerable to fines under state law.

The board approved a major concession that largely exempts local governments from responsibility for reducing water-borne bacteria generated by birds or other “natural” sources that are unlikely to cause human illness.

Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, a Santa Monica-based environmental group, said the compliance schedule was too lenient. Bacteria during dry weather should be reduced in less than five years, he said.

"The bottom line is that people will have to wait 10 years for the beaches to be safe," Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, said.


Edited by Carolyn Allen
| water quality | san diego |


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