Jul 30, 2007

San Mateo County Receives Grant to Clean Water

$845,000 to fund pollution prevention project

Plans to study the fecal pollution around Pillar Point Harbor in San Mateo County, Calif., are flush with funding after the State Water Resources Control Board last week confirmed an $845,000 grant offer to the county's resource conservation district.District officials notified others in the county of the grant via e-mail Friday."This is an incredible opportunity to identify ways to improve the chronically poor water quality in the harbor that affects all who use it," wrote San Mateo Resource Conservation District executive director Kellyx Nelson.The focus of the San Mateo water cleanup project is preventing pollution sources from emptying into El Granada waters. Sewer systems, boat discharges, pet and avian fecal contamination and nearby creeks are potential sources of particular interest. Upon identifying which sources most need addressing, the project will initiate specific plans for improving county water quality.Pillar Point Harbor is an enclosed watershed with five beaches in San Mateo County. The area's water quality is exceptionally below standard; the State Water Resources Control Board recently listed the harbor as impaired by coliform baceria.Capistrano Beach, the main focus of the cleanup project, has had elevated levels of fecal bacteria such as E. coli in more than 95% of its samples and has been ranked for several years in the top 10 most polluted beaches in California. In March 2006, the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department permanently labeled the beach as a potential health hazard. Marsh Beach, another of Pillar Point's five beaches, averages 20 weeks a year on the county's potential health hazard list.According to the project description, the need to identify the source(s) of such pollution is urgent. Theories abound in the community; residents and officials point to everything from human contamination from leaking sewer lines to contamination from bird droppings.Until now the samples and studies needed to pinpoint the pollution problem have been lacking, reads the project description. The undertaking does not need an Environmental Impact Report or review under the California Environmental Quality Act because it is data collection rather than a significant change to an environmental resource.