Letters/Online Comments

Letter to the Editor: Is It Really Necessary to Reduce Copper in Shelter Island Yacht Basin?

Byline: Michael Wilson

While all indications are that San Diego’s Shelter Island Yacht Basin has met a 2012 quota for reducing waterborne copper by 10 percent (as covered in The Log’s Jan. 18-31 issue story, “Shelter Island Yacht Basin Said to Be Meeting Copper Reduction Marks”), my question is this: Was reducing copper in this waterway ever really necessary in the first place?

Somehow, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board decided that copper in a local waterway was bad, despite the fact that we pipe all our residential drinking water through the stuff. Copper pipes have been used for centuries, and our society has not yet perished. And many of us also use copper cookware daily and wear copper bracelets.

Never mind that scientific studies have not shown any ill effects on local marine life that are linked to copper. There’s some copper in Shelter Island Yacht Basin and, by golly, the water board is going to regulate it.

The rest of San Diego Bay has not been similarly targeted.

The water board has chosen to ignore the many chemicals and pollutants the Navy has dumped into our local waters for decades. Since it has no authority to regulate the Navy, it simply turns a blind eye to this major source of pollution.

Scientific studies have shown that copper dust from automobile brake pads has been the Number 1 source of copper in the waters adjacent to many waterfront cities, including San Francisco and Seattle. But our water board has its own study showing that automotive brake pads — something else that they cannot regulate — are not causing any major copper pollution in our city of San Diego.

However, recreational boaters do not get off so easily. The water board says it has determined that the culprit causing copper levels to increase in Shelter Island Yacht Basin is recreational boats that have copper-based antifouling paint on their hulls.

No surprise that boaters are a favorite target of regulators. Anyone with a “yacht” — even a 15-footer — must be some big, wealthy “Fat Cat,” right?

The water board in 2005 issued a Total Maximum Daily Load limit order for the yacht basin, and it has required the Port of San Diego to meet strict copper reduction levels for that waterway. How is the port supposed to reduce copper loading in the yacht basin by 10 percent in 2012, 40 percent in 2014 and 76 percent in 2022?

The folks at the water board didn’t make that clear.

Perhaps there’s a magic wand somewhere that the port can wave to do the trick. Otherwise, maybe the port could just close the yacht basin to yachts?

Of course, there would have to be a name change … maybe Shelter Island BIRD Basin?

Michael Wilson

San Diego

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