Tide flowing slowly in cleanup of boat channel
by Sebastian Ruiz
Apr 16, 2008 | 737 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What's taking so long to clean up the pollution in the Liberty Station Boat Channel at the former Navy Training Center?

That's the question second-generation San Diego native and Peninsula resident Greg Finely has been asking city and Navy officials for some time now "” with nothing but murky answers in return. If nothing is done soon, the city may inherit a dirty boat channel, as the property is slated to change hands from the Navy possibly around 2009.

The channel feeds into San Diego Bay and is primarily used for boating and Jet Skiing.

"This issue has been mired in "¦ obfuscation," Finley said. "[The resolution] is not going anywhere."

He said the boat channel remains contaminated with toxic chemicals even as city officials, the Navy and the Regional Water Quality Control Board representatives tread along slowly.

Navy officials said the main pollutants are lead, copper, zinc and pesticides.

Ultimately, the Navy is responsible for cleaning up the channel as part of the Navy's Base Realignment and Closure Commission's closeout procedures to hand the property over to the city, officials said.

Pollution came mostly from former Naval Training Center's operations, according to city officials. But pollution also comes from urban runoff, said Chehreh Komeylyan, a water resource engineer for the water quality control board.

Navy officials identified contaminated areas of the channel in an October 2003 report to the water quality control board. The two groups have been meeting since then to resolve "technical differences" over which areas the Navy should clean up and how, according to a statement from Navy officials.

"Sediment science is a somewhat new and evolving field in which clear remediation goals have not been established. Expending taxpayer dollars on an undefined project is not prudent," according to a statement from the BRAC Program Management Office West.

The Navy report divides the channel in two sections. Navy officials identified a northern section, which it selected for further study and cleanup. A southern section of the channel has been recommended for "no further action," according to the statement.

Komeylyan said the Navy promised at a meeting with the water quality control board in January to submit a work plan aimed at cleaning parts of the channel.

Though the Navy and the water quality control board have been phoning each other several times this year to resolve the issues, no clear goals for cleanup have been established, Komeylyan said.

Komeylyan said the cleanup efforts must comply with specific mitigation objectives set by the State Water Resources Control Board.

The objectives classify areas as "impacted," "likely impacted" or "not impacted" and gives a breakdown of those areas, she said.

"[Objectives] actually takes into account chemistry, toxicity and the benthic community "” the critters," she said.

District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer said the city hired outside consultants last year to meet with the water quality control board and the Navy to help move the process along.

He said he wants a plan from the Navy available within the next couple of months in order to schedule a public hearing on the issue.

The date of the hearing depends on when the Navy comes up with a plan.

"My goal is to make sure the channel is clean, safe and [that] the environment is protected before the property is transferred from the Navy to the city," Faulconer said.

Navy officials said the property transfer could happen by 2009, but no definitive date has been set.

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