Navy Sewage Flowed To Bay Since '04

November 19th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Navy Sewage Flowed To Bay Since '04

San Diego Union-Tribune
November 18, 2006
Huge spill started when barracks built
By Steve Liewer and Mike Lee, Staff Writers
More than 10 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into San Diego Bay over the past two years from an award-winning military barracks because of an improperly connected pipe, Navy officials said yesterday.
It was the largest reported sewage spill in the region since February 2000.
The mistake, which was fixed yesterday morning, apparently occurred during the construction of Palmer Hall. The privately built, 12-story barracks opened in 2004 on the San Diego Naval Base at 32nd Street, said Capt. Matt Brown, a spokesman for Navy Region Southwest. It is home to more than 1,000 single sailors assigned to the base.
Brown said workers hired by the San Diego-based building contractor Soltek Pacific connected a pipe carrying about 75 percent of the outflow from the barracks' toilets, sinks and showers to an unused storm drain that flows into Chollas Creek and then into the bay. The pipe should have been hooked to a sewage line running to a treatment plant.
Seabees from a Navy construction battalion discovered the error yesterday while working on an unrelated construction project. They quickly built a temporary line running to the correct sewage line, Brown said.
“They did it immediately,” he said. “We have stopped the flow of sewage into the bay.”
Engineers for Soltek Pacific were summoned to work out a permanent solution, Brown said. The Navy has launched an investigation to determine how the mistake happened and why it wasn't discovered earlier.
The Palmer Hall project cost $37.2 million, according to Soltek Pacific's Web site. Last year, the San Diego chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America honored the company's Palmer Hall work for “excellence in building construction.”
Soltek Pacific officials could not be reached for comment yesterday evening.
The Navy routinely monitors the bay for pollutants, Brown said. But its chemical tests measure the levels of heavy metals and other types of industrial runoff, not organic wastes.
In addition, the Navy said its observers never spotted fecal matter or toilet paper among the large amounts of debris that typically litter Chollas Creek.
Brown said neither the Navy nor local governments are required to inspect sewer connections on military construction projects. The contractor, however, must hire a subcontractor to certify that such work was done properly.
“This is most unfortunate that it has occurred because so many of the civilian communities have gone through extensive reviews ... to discover and correct just this kind of problem,” said John Robertus, executive officer for the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The agency polices water pollution but has limited influence over military installations.
Water board engineer Melissa Valdovinos said the Navy is exempt from state fines. She said her agency is trying to figure out what went wrong and what, if any, damage was done by the discharge.
None of the county's other major sewage spills in recent years has been caused by the Navy, which Valdovinos characterized as being very cooperative with state regulators.
The Navy also is an increasingly prominent player in the region's environmental issues. Navy Region Southwest was among the headliners for a newly announced alliance to deal with countywide issues such as climate change and sustainable development.
But at Coastkeeper, an environmental group dedicated to protecting San Diego County's coastal waters, Executive Director Bruce Reznik said the military has a long history of environmental damage in the region and nationwide. For instance, he said, Camp Pendleton's recently upgraded wastewater treatment system has been problematic for years.
“The military is one of the largest, if not the largest, polluter we have,” Reznik said.
Still, he characterized the Palmer Hall sewage spill as unusual.
“You expect them to know how to get the pipes hooked up,” Reznik said.

Similar Topics
The Navy Won The Batle Of Britain
USMC Colonel on the Bay of Pigs
Pearl Harbour one more lie?????
Chinese Military Doctrine
Indian Navy mulls joint patrol with Singapore, Malaysia