Dangerous sea levels and wave runup have continuously threatened San Diego’s coastlines, and this winter, experts say El Niño conditions are the culprit.
High tides and surf have been stripping coastal habitats for decades — pulling sand, rocks and stones into the ocean and destroying natural water barriers, according to the California Coastal Commission.
Urban runoff and pollution have also plagued the seawater. Heavy storms have given rise to high levels of bacteria that often exceed the Department of Environmental Health’s water quality standards.
Mission Beach, Mission Bay and the cities of Del Mar and Encinitas have been particularly affected by El Niño complications, leading San Diego regional officials to issue frequent public advisories for high tides and poor seawater quality.
Bacteria plagues Mission Beach
Masaki Ansley, 23, and Mick Correri, 23, have been surfing South Mission Jetty every morning for 10 years.
After heavy rainstorms, urban runoff and pollution pour into the seawater, and Ansley and Correri have counted numerous times when they’ve become seriously ill after a storm.
“I can remember one day after a storm last December that was especially gross,” Ansley said. “The water was murky and green, and yellow foam was coming off the top of the waves. I paddled out and inhaled some foam and threw up in the water. I got sick for three weeks. It was all in my lungs and I ran a terrible fever.”
Correri said this winter season has been particularly bad.
“Debris and trash are almost too common in the water,” Correri said. “At one point, I was getting sick every other week and going to the emergency department all of the time. It makes you rethink how important certain hobbies are to you.”
South Mission Jetty was once home to small beach coves, but in the last five years, Correri said, several of them have disappeared completely.
“There’s this one break where there used to be a road down to the beach, but there isn’t a beach anymore,” Correri said. “(Water) just crashes against the cliffs. You used to be able to see the sand at high tide, but now, even during low tide, you can’t see the sand anymore.”
Heavy rainfall has also put the Mission Bay Aquatic Center on frequent mandatory, 72-hour holds until the bay water is safe enough for members to enter.
“It puts a damper on the educational quality of this facility as well as people’s general happiness with our courses,” Johnny Fay, head of surfing program at the Aquatic Center, said. “Especially during this El Niño season, there’s a fear of nasty ear or eye infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, and things like that.”
Cardiff’s coastline is in recession
The city of Encinitas developed a shoreline program to combat coastal erosion exacerbated by El Niño, in hopes of restoring its deeply affected beaches.
Kathy Weldon, shoreline program manager, says the city’s main goal has always been to protect the coast’s natural habitats by restoring shorelines, loss of elevation and loss of beach area — particularly in Cardiff by the Sea.
Its current project, the Living Shoreline Conceptual Plan, aims to move more than 30,000 cubic yards of sand from the San Elijo Lagoon to a vulnerable, half-mile stretch along Highway 101.
This waterfront, between Cardiff State Beach and Encinitas’ historic Restaurant Row, has minimal sand left, and Weldon is concerned for the effect it will have on the beach and the highway.
“(The project) is focused on sea level rise and how to prevent it before something worse happens,” Weldon said. “It’s kind of a hybrid of approach with multiple benefits. So we want to create habitat for the birds and a habitat along the beach, and at the same time protect Highway 101.”
The sand will be used to create artificial dunes that can catch excess sea water, preventing El Niño-style “king tides” from destroying water barriers and flooding the highway, program reports state.
Sean Lee, coastal programs intern and a University of California, San Diego student, has been collecting data from Cardiff State Beach and Moonlight Beach in Encinitas — both are “disappearing beaches” he said the city’s trying to learn more about.
Lee uses a data collection device called a MoBERM (Mobile Beach Erosion Monitoring) that includes a small piece of technology known as a Spectra Precision. He’s been using this tool once a month since October, 2015.
As Lee pulls the MoBERM across the sand, the Spectra Precision collects GPS data points; one GPS point is recorded every half second. This determines X, Y and Z coordinates that can be used to plot an elevation profile and yield the exact width of a given beach.
“So right now we’re trying to look at specifically how the area of the beach has been changing, how the volume of the beach is changing, how much sand is being lost or gained,” Lee said.
After three months of data from this year’s El Niño season, coastal erosion has undoubtedly sparked high rates of sediment movement. But as the season ends, Lee said coastlines have already begun to improve.
“We found that the beaches experience significantly (less) erosion during the months where there were little storm events,” Lee said. “So during the month of February for example, the beach was able to recover…and retrieve the sand that it lost in the past months.”
Del Mar restaurants build barriers
Perry Ustick, general manager of Jake’s Del Mar, remembers a winter day in 1981 when water slammed into the restaurant, breaking glass and flooding the dining room with sand and seawater. The restaurant was brand new, and the storm was one of many to precede the El Niño of 1982-83.
Since then, the beach has lost more than 4 feet of sand and the restaurant has buried large boulders into its outer landscape for protection. The configuration creates a sturdy, reliable safeguard when hit by the force of waves.
This season, Ustick fears the space has grown smaller between the restaurant, the rocks and the waves. High surf has come close enough to hit a small strip of patio in front Jake’s, forcibly moving boulders yards away from dining patrons.
“What we have, I am worried, because we have a lot of days where there’s literally no beach,” Ustick said. “I actually saw a family got pinned against the rocks from the surf coming up right out front. I ran down there to try and help and the lifeguard closed the beach for everybody that day.”
Next door at Poseidon Restaurant, large waves flooded their outdoor patio so regularly that they built a 40-foot seawall to protect guests and the building from further damage.
“We’re lucky that we’re set back enough from where we have our protective boulders set up to protect us,” Ustick said. “But out here, the disappearing sand area has also made the beach less popular, which has affected our business.”
Youth have a role in conservation
As this year’s storm season comes to a close, high rates of coastal erosion have left San Diego’s shorelines bare of sand and natural barriers — a pattern that is likely to continue indefinitely, regional reports say.
As more data develops on the issues, researchers are gaining a better understanding of how environmental problems can change natural landscapes over longer intervals, Lee said. He hopes this will better educate the general public.
Johnny Fay, of the Mission Bay Aquatic Center, believes it’s in the hands of current and future generations to be mindful of water quality and coastal erosion issues and our role as pollutant producers and managers.
“Luckily there is so much hope, potential and wisdom around the young people of today,” Fay said. “They’ve grown up in a culture that has been very concerned about the environment, and its bright young people who will be leading our way into the future.”
By SDSU Journalism and Media Studies 550 Students
From environmentalists to legislators, everyone seems to be talking about health these days.
Global warming anxiety is rising as the temperature of the earth does the same.
Cancer and H1N1 rates are still high, as scientists race to find a cure or to make more vaccines available. It seems understanding the health crisis in the U.S. is a multi-faceted problem that touches the lives of men and women in every state and every industry — down every main street.
The question, then, must begin at home — in California, down San Diego’s streets. The
county says it is “going green,” and that flu medicines are becoming more available. County officials tout infrastructure improvements and employment opportunities.
But is the city really healthier today than it was yesterday? Are local residents recycling? Are they eating better and using mass transit or cleaner forms of energy? Are the at-risk populations being given the resources to participate in the community? Students in San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies set out to answer some of these questions.
With the health of the nation today wavering beneath pressures from global conflict, slow reform and a difficult economic recession, we wondered whether our city is fairing any better than the country at large.
The answers we found may surprise you. From older Navy veterans to young marathon runners, employees at the landfill and immigrants planting organic farm fields, the health of San Diego is a major concern. As these stories demonstrate, many San Diegans are working – behind the scenes and in front of them, to improve the quality of life for themselves and their neighbors.
By Steven Bartholow
By Gabriela Guarguagli
Even though The Environmental Protection Agency and some large businesses, including Wal-Mart, are aggressively promoting the sale of compact fluorescent light bulbs as a way to save energy and fight global warming, environmentally-conscious people are questioning the benefits of the cute-looking bulbs versus the real damage done to the environment and people when fluorescent bulbs are not disposed properly.
One problem is when light bulbs break at home the average user don’t know how to properly dispose/recycle the waste.
In San Diego County Clean Harbors is in charge of the handling and recycling of straight tubes, U-tubes and circular lamps. Clean Harbors separates the metal, glass, and mercury containing phosphors, and then segregates each component into separate containers. The idea is not to allow materials into the open landfill.
The problem here, again, is that the average customer doesn’t know how to properly recycle fluorescent light bulbs. Most households in Southern California get rid of their waste through EDCO, a family owned and locally operated waste collection and recycling company, and although the company provides recycling trash cans, the public is advised not to throw light bulbs in their recycling cans.
According to Jose Gonzalez, a landfill worker from EDCO, “customers are still learning how to recycle and sometimes we find broken light bulbs in the gray trashcans, or inside the recycling trashcans that are not fit to handle this type of waste.”
However, Gonzalez considers that more customers are taking their light bulbs in plastic bags to the different EDCO locations along with batteries and computer equipment to be recycled.
EDCO holds monthly events were customers can drop-off their recyclables for free. The company then sorts the material and Clean Harbors picks it up to be properly recycled at their facility.
According to the CDC the mercury contained light bulbs generally don’t pose a risk unless the item is damaged or broken, and mercury vapors are released. Spills of metallic mercury may result in exposure to mercury vapors in indoor air. Very small amounts of metallic mercury (for example, a few drops) can raise air concentrations of mercury to levels that may be harmful to health. The longer people breathe the contaminated air, the greater the risk to their health. Metallic mercury and its vapors are extremely difficult to remove from clothes, furniture, carpet, floors, walls, and other such items. If these items are not properly cleaned, the mercury can remain for months or years, and continue to be a source of exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that when you breathe in mercury vapors, most (about 80%) of the mercury enters your bloodstream directly from your lungs, and then rapidly goes to other parts of your body, including the brain and kidneys. Once in your body, metallic mercury can stay for weeks or months. When metallic mercury enters the brain, it is readily converted to an inorganic form and is “trapped” in the brain for a long time. Metallic mercury in the blood of a pregnant woman can enter her developing child. Most of the metallic mercury will accumulate in your kidneys, but some metallic mercury can also accumulate in the brain. Most of the metallic mercury absorbed into the body eventually leaves in the urine and feces, while smaller amounts leave the body in the exhaled breath.
Barbara Kinsey, Clinical Nutritionist and Quantum Reflex Analysis practitioner (QRA) agrees with the CDC that mercury contained in the fluorescent light bulbs can pose a great risk for people exposed its vapors when a light bulb breaks.
According to Kinsey, “when a light bulb breaks, releases mercury vapors and mercury is one of the highest toxic metals and at exposure, damages the brain.” “Causes Lou Gehirg’s Disease, also known as A.L.S., which damages motor control and people lose capacity to move.”
The list goes on as Kinsey says mercury exposure causes mental disorders, miscarriages, and neurological damage. And the bad thing is “You only need a little bit of mercury running into your system, and going into the bloodstream. It passes the brain barrier and body tissues. Once the damage is done it’s a very fast death.”
Kinsey says that people exposed to mercury can take matters into their hands to heal themselves. “Through a hair test people can find out the levels of mercury in their system. They can use Chelation therapy that helps remove mercury, and Chlorella algae are highly helpful detoxifiers, because the chlorella gets into the cells and removes mercury easily and fast.”
However, she cautious that detoxifying has to be slow.“It’s the safest way to do it, by supporting the kidneys.
Especially important is to allow the cells to have highly absorbable minerals that protect the cells and don’t allow the toxins to go back into the system.”
Kinsey advocates the use of windmill-powered energy, solar energy, natural gas and, perhaps, more radical measures, such as using more natural light, and full spectrum lighting. “The whole nation has to go -sooner or later, that way. We have to be aware the way we use energy and where we get it from.”
The Environmental Protection Agency “EPA” has a section on “How-To” for consumers to learn the recycling business of fluorescent light bulbs.