There is no question that cuts and sacrifices need to be made. But we must examine the necessity of monitoring oceans and bays not just from an environmental prospective but also from a public health standpoint as well. How can we afford not to be aware of potential toxins and/or biologically harmful substances in our frequently visited coastal waters?
First and foremost, the public’s health is at stake when there is no longer any water testing going on nor any public notification. With millions of local San Diego County residents diving into the water, how many more individuals will contract waterborne illnesses? Imagine taking your children to the beach knowing that there had been beach closures in the past and that now the water may or may not be safe.
And in the event of an undetected sewage spill, the spill could go unnoticed until numerous people are sick and then have the werewithal to report it. Then and only then, what could have been a relatively simple fix has turned into a much larger environmental and public health issue.
So the public health and environmental benefits are an easy sell. But in these drastic economic times for our city, state and country, how do we afford this? The obvious question is, how much money does it take to run the program locally?
Apparently, the whole program costs $ 300,000 a year. That’s not a lot of money to test the waters of San Diego County (from the Mexico border up to San Onofre) and notify the public when bacteria levels are high. A small price to pay for safer beaches and potentially cleaner water. Politicians, including our mayor, boasted about the fewer beach closures from year to year in San Diego.
The program was making San Diego look good here and abroad. Politicians were quick to claim credit for it until the governor decided to do away with state funding for the California’s beach water monitoring programs.
Where do we turn now? San Diego County doesn’t seem to want make it a priority now either. So then what?
If every one of the millions of beachgoers paid a quarter when they went to the beach, the program could still run.
I ask the county to consider assisting with funding or even local nonprofit environmental organizations to come together to work on an alternative plan so that our beaches and bays of San Diego are safe and clean.