November 28, 2006

Local water pollution, globalization and health in general.

According to the local paper, the runoff from Tijuana is closing beaches again:

The water at Border Field State Park and the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is off-limits today. Sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana River has been dumping into the ocean there after Monday’s rainfall.

According to the county’s Department of Environmental Health, the river was spitting about 158 gallons of contaminated water per second onto the shoreline. (As of 8:48 a.m.)

The article links to a UCSD web page for plotting the plumes based on surface currents:

Flow diagramFlow diagram

A few months ago, the paper also had another similar article. There’s another one somewhere that I can’t find that had a link to this PDF (1.2MB) report on 2005 San Diego beach closures. Inside the report is this picture, which shows a plume from the air:

Sewage plumeSewage plume

The report is pretty damning:

Major findings of the San Diego County 2005 Beach Closure & Advisory Report: Closures due to Sewage Contamination
• Despite a 14% decrease in the number of closure events due to sewage contamination [36 in 2005 from 42 in 2004], the total number of closure Beach Mile Days increased to 263 in 2005 from 225 in 2004. This represents the third consecutive year of increase and a 183% increase in the total number of closure Beach Mile Days since 2000. Analysis of closure data since 2000 indicates several trends in beach closures in San Diego County:

  1. Sewage spills to recreational waters that coincide with stormwater runoff following rainfall have significantly greater closure Beach Mile Days (BMDs) than those issued during dry or less rainy weather. This is due to the longer duration (often 7 days or more) of these events while awaiting bacterial levels to drop within state standards to remove signs, and the greater distances posted because of the extent to which sewage contamination is carried by stormwater flows from lagoon mouths, rivers, etc. The 2004 and 2005 yearly beach closure reports list the closures issued during the rainy season of 2004/ 2005, the third heaviest rainfall season since records began in 1850.
  2. The biggest contributors to closure BMDs are the closures issued for south county beaches due to sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana River. These closures are often for several miles of beach shoreline (compared to several hundred yards for other closures) and can last from a few days to over two weeks at a time. Closures related to the Tijuana River are also a function of rainfall frequency and intensity, which cause river flows to enter the U.S. and the Tijuana Estuary.
  3. When closure events related to the Tijuana River are excluded, the number of closure events caused by sewage spills (SSOs) has decreased since 2001. [Down 43% from 39 in 2001 to 22 in 2005].

As with air pollution from China and African dust into the Amazon, or mercury from China in Oregon, it’s increasingly obvious that pollution is everyone’s problem. If we as Americans outsource polluting industries as maquilas, (Wikipedia page) then we can expect the pollution produced to haunt us as well:

The neural tube defect rate per 10,000 babies in Cameron County, TX was 9.08 in 1997 and 19.94 in 1998. This is almost twice the national average.” (The NAFTA Index, October 1, 1998)

The [Texas] Department [of Health] recently declared that, the entire border area remains a high-risk area [for neural tube defects] compared to the rest of the US.’” (NAFTA at 5, Global Trade Watch)

(Text from this page, which has an enormous amount of information.)

Even the US government agrees.

There are several places to learn more on the web, and I’d encourage you to do so. As far as local pollution, I guess I’ll just watch the beach closures and postpone become a surfer.

I increasingly believe that recent epidemics such as asthma ,autism and perhaps obesity have causal links to the environment we’ve created.

So what do we, as individuals and citizens, do? Vote your conscience, of course, and donate similarly, but clearly more is required. As I’m flu-bound, this all has particular resonance right now, which also accounts for the sub-par writing. And perhaps the lack of a strong go forth and do good’ closing, because I’m depressed and fresh out of ideas.

At least some of the worst Congressional offenders are out of office now, but I have my doubts about their replacements as well.

Environment Essays News Outdoors Politics Science San Diego Pollution

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