San Diego Bay to Undergo Historic Cleanup

By Greg Bledsoe
|  Sunday, Sep 22, 2013  |  Updated 9:22 AM PDT
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A major project is about to begin that focuses on cleaning up the San Diego Bay. NBC 7's Greg Bledsoe speaks with Tanya Castaneda of the Port of San Diego about the efforts to clean San Diego's famous bay.

A major project is about to begin that focuses on cleaning up the San Diego Bay. NBC 7's Greg Bledsoe speaks with Tanya Castaneda of the Port of San Diego about the efforts to clean San Diego's famous bay.

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San Diego Bay is one of San Diego’s most popular places and may also be one of the dirtiest – but not for long.

On Wednesday, the Port of San Diego announced that it has reached a tentative agreement with General Dynamics NASSCO to mobilize the largest-ever cleanup of San Diego Bay.

It’s set to be the most extensive cleanup job in the history of the bay, and experts say the effort is much-needed.

Although the bay is known as one of San Diego’s signature views, just below the surface lurks a problem that has been building up for decades.

“We’re talking about years of accumulated debris,” Tanya Castaneda with the Port of San Diego told NBC 7.

Castaneda says that debris includes sediment filled with chemicals such as copper and mercury.

Those chemicals have been deposited by boat paint, cleaning solvents, run off and by San Diego shipyards for years upon years.

“So, over 100 years of industrial activity on the bay, you can imagine just the mix of toxins in there,” said Castaneda. “There are sediments that have an impact on marine life, and also on our ability to use the bay for recreation.”

“This is part of cleaning up our backyard,” she added.

The massive cleanup project that’s about to begin will involve a barge with a giant, clamshell-like took scooping 140,000-cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of the bay.

In other words, picture the average shovel. Now, multiply the shovel by about 21 million, at a cost of more than $2,000 per shovel-full.

“We’re hearing a $50 million, and different parties are each going to pay a share of it,” said Castaneda.

Those parties include the Port of San Diego and the NASSCO shipyard, among others.

But the Port says the bottom line here is not cost, rather the bottom of one of San Diego’s most important resources.

“The important thing is to get going on it. And even though it is a very complicated, expensive and environmentally-sensitive project, it needs to get done,” added Castaneda.

There is not set date yet on when the cleanup project will begin.

NASSCO is still finishing up agreements with some of the other parties that will help fund the project.

However, NBC 7 is told that equipment is already being moved and the cleanup should begin sometime soon.

The project is expected to take about three years to complete.
 

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