San Diego Coast Guard releases local pollution summary for 2007

SAN DIEGO – Coast Guard Sector San Diego released a report identifying 288 pollution incidents in 2007 in coastal areas between the Mexican border and Orange County, Calif.

Of these 288 incidents, Sector San Diego identified sources for 184. The total known amount of oil or chemicals spilled into tidal influenced waters of San Diego county in 2007 was 4,324 gallons.

The sources of the other 104 incidents remain a mystery, and they make up more than 36% of the total pollution incidents within tidal influenced waters of San Diego County. This is a concern for Sector San Diego because it indicates that the responsible parties of spills are not reporting as required by federal law. In addition, the oil products can have toxic effects on humans if entered into the blood stream through the skin and by inhalation.

Most oil spills are from small, chronic sources, such as bilges, outboard motors, poor fueling procedures, urban run-off, and improper disposal of used oil products. Because of oil’s high dispersion factor, even small spills and discharges can poison large surface areas of the aquatic environment.

Coast Guard pollution investigators issued 44 notices of violation to responsible parties of pollution incidents. In addition, they referred nine civil penalty cases resulting in almost $75,000 in proposed fines, nearly $7,200 in paid fines, and approximately $3,400 in fines referred for collection. Enforcement action that is taken will be dependent on what the evidence indicates actually happened. The penalties may include civil and criminal penalties and criminal prosecution. Additionally, if the person responsible is the holder of a Coast Guard issued license or document, suspension and revocation action against their credentials can be taken.

“We understand accidents happen,” said Lt. Jereme Altendorf, head of the incident management team at Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “The important thing is that we take steps to help prevent those accidents and clean the spill up as quickly as possible to minimize damage to the environment. We all enjoy the beauty of San Diego’s coastline, and we need to preserve that.”

Knowing that such a high percentage of oil spills go unreported, please help us prevent pollution and the subsequent contamination of San Diego’s natural environment. Here are a few examples of how you can help:

  • Know your tanks’ fuel capacity, and allow for 5% space for fuel expansion.
  • Don’t top off fuel tanks.
  • Never use soap or detergent to “get rid of” spilled oil. This only adds a second toxin to the environment.
  • Place an oil-absorbent pad in the bilge to collect any oil/fuel leaks from the engine. Never pump oily bilge water or sewage overboard!
  • Keep engines tuned, and check fuel and hydraulic lines frequently — repair or replace when needed.

Ctizens can report spills to the National Response Center (NRC) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-424-8802. Please call as soon as possible, as rapid response helps to lessen the damage caused by spilled oil.

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