Does the Wet Suit You

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Sewer Vent

By J.J. Gasparotti

Folks who recreate in our ocean have long been eyeing our sewers. Just waiting for them to leak…again. The day before Thanksgiving, they did. A neglected valve failed, dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the ocean. The city then decided the best way to fix the broken valve was to divert more hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the ocean, at the Bluebird pump station, vastly increasing the polluted area.

That failed valve may have been an accidental discharge, the second decision, to divert raw sewage directly into the ocean, was an intentional discharge. That’s a serious water quality issue. One hopes that the state water quality regulators give it their full attention.

The tallest building in the world isn’t hooked up to a sewer pipe. They load all of that huge building’s sewage into tankers and haul it away. Our city should have put our diverted sewage into tankers and hauled it to the treatment plant. While it may be more expedient and cheaper to intentionally pump raw sewage into the ocean, it’s also illegal.

Our city has a $110 million yearly budget and we’re still having third world sewage spills. This is the perfect example of what happens when your city government becomes too focused on the needs of visitors and the industry that serves them, at the expense of the taxpaying residents.

What’s the bigger threat to your quality of life or property values, a shabby tourist industry or an ocean too polluted to swim in? If you were staying at the Montage on Thanksgiving, wouldn’t you want a polluted beach refund or discount?

Del Mar, that charming oceanfront city with the racetrack, is known as “Del Mar: where the surf meets the turf.” How does that compare with, “Laguna Beach: where the poop meets the soup”? Sewage spills aren’t good news.

City councils and their staff have one main job—protect the health and safety of the residents. Thanksgiving Day, our’s failed to do that job. Perhaps they were preoccupied with village exits, saving defunct sewer digesters, and snow cone art sculptures. The wants of our visitor-serving businesses aren’t the existential threat to our village—a failing sewer system is.

It is perfectly clear to anybody prevented from recreating in our turd-filled ocean that it’s time for a tune up down at City Hall. It’s one thing to fail in delivering much-needed resident-serving amenities, and quite another to fundamentally fail to provide adequately for the health and safety of Laguna’s residents.

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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