Art by Bob AulIt's time for Clockwork to wallow in the sewage. Again. Less than a month after we wrote about boogie boarding alongside a crap log at Huntington State Beach ("Where the Surf Meets the Turd," July 29), county health officials closed that beach and Huntington City Beach on Aug. 20. Based on high bacteria levels, officials speculate a mysterious leak may have released more than 50 million gallons of sewage since June 30, producing a spill twice as large as any OC has suffered in at least 27 years. More than two miles of coast were deemed off-limits to swimmers and surfers. Beach attendance has plummeted by nearly one-third. High-tech sonar, radar and video equipment is being used to discover the leak's source, which is likely a buried Orange County Sanitation Districts pipe. No raw sewage had been detected at press time, but a south swell pushed high bacteria levels toward neighboring Newport Beach.
DON'T TREAD ON ME Like a warm, smelly, disgusting security blanket, the crap's all around us. We've written before about the Aliso Creek shit slope, which continually fouls Aliso Beach in South Laguna, and that toxic swill known as Newport Bay. Well, guess what? They're dealing with yet another chronic sewage problem just south of the county line. The Marine Corps has been under a cease-and-desist order from the state Regional Water Quality Control Board for the past 10 years to stop discharging treated sewage from Camp Pendleton into the Santa Margarita River. With no cure in sight, the board on Aug. 11 did what most government agencies do when faced with a nagging environmental problem: they extended the deadline for solving it by another five years. Before the last deadline passed, the Marines tried frantically to connect with Oceanside's city outfall, which would send the shit one and a half miles offshore. But Oceanside refused, wanting a little something in return: annexation of the 125,000-acre base, which would extend the city's boundary to the Orange County line. RUNS FOR THE BORDER The state Regional Water Quality Control Board (busy little buggers, eh?) voted Aug. 11 to ask the California attorney general to sue the federal government over inadequate treatment of Mexican sewage at the international border. The board alleges a $100 million sewage-treatment plant built two years ago by the feds to help keep raw Mexican sewage off San Diego County's southernmost beaches has never met federal sewage-treatment standards for removal of solids and has repeatedly failed acute-toxicity tests that are used to gauge how lethal the effluent might be to fish and other life in the ocean. The state board generally fines violators of clean-water laws, but since the feds operate the plant, the courts would have to sort all this out. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which finds itself in the unusual predicament of being cast as offender instead of enforcer, had no comment on a potential suit, although a spokesman did say they're doing everything in their power to solve the problem and blah, blah, blah. Plant supporters would comment on a potential suit, saying such legal action would obstruct a long-term solution to the problem and blah, blah, blah. Hey, why not extend a deadline? WE HATE LEASES TO PIECES Not all news on the coastal front is bad. Two weeks ago, the California Coastal Commission threatened legal action if the federal government allowed oil leases off our shore to be developed without further review. In a letter the commission received last week, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt announced all California offshore oil leases had been suspended for 90 days pending government review. The time will be used to determine whether it's appropriate for oil companies to develop 40 tracts they leased three decades ago for a cool $1.2 billion. One million barrels of oil could be pumped from the project area—give or take a few that might mysteriously leak and further foul our already shitty shores.