Children's Pool Lifeguard Tower Still Sidelined by Sewage Problems

The tower was closed soon after it opened in June, leaving beachgoers to use Porta-Potties nearby.

Sewage problems that shut down San Diego's new lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla now figure to remain unresolved for a while longer.

The tower was closed soon after it opened in June, leaving beachgoers to use Porta-Potties nearby.

City officials say the remedial work could take another eight weeks, depending on "availability of material".

Cost estimates are still pending.

Meantime, the scene around Children’s Pool is a mess -- not exactly postcard material for a tourist town, and a beach that's been in the news, world-wide.

“I think there are definitely precautions they could have taken” Ocean Beach resident Katie Gillette said in an interview Tuesday. “And then I also worry about the state of the marine life and water surrounding it, if they're having sewage outbreaks. This is such an ecological reserve and bio-diverse area, and we want to protect that, too."

The tower was years in the making, no thanks to seal pupping seasons and funding delays.

Design and construction costs: $4.25 million.

But the bottom line will escalate, after installation of a different pump and grinding systems that can better handle items that shouldn't be flushed down the toilets – diapers and clothing were among the apparent causes of the sewage backups in June.

Still to be decided in all this is, who will pay the freight.

Until that work is finished, lifeguards remain stuck sharing old trailer quarters on-site, and beachgoers along the busy coastal strip will be obliged to seek relief in temporary facilities they say are an insult to the eyes and nose.

"It's one of the grossest Porta-Potties I've been in, so I was in and out really fast," said Minneapolis resident Noah Dahlien. “Do your business before you come.”

Is this any way to greet visitors from near and far, lured by San Diego's reputation as a world-class "destination"?

"No, you definitely don't want the three Porta-Potties that are out there,” Gillette told NBC 7. “I think it would be a lot better-maintained if there were restrooms down there that have fully operational sinks and everything going on. Flushing toilets."

Taxpayer advocates wonder whether adequate "due diligence" and inspections were performed, prior to the city taking occupancy of the tower and putting it in operation.

"You really want to run the place through its tests,” says Richard Rider, chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters. “Sounds to me like they said, 'Looks like it's there and all built, so we're going to sign off.' That's not the way you do an inspection. Certainly not in the private sector. Maybe so, in city government."

City Council President Sherrie Lighter, whose 1st District encompasses Children’s Pool beach, offered these thoughts in an email to NBC 7:

“I am very concerned about recent construction issues that the city has encountered on major projects such as the La Jolla lifeguard towers.

“These experiences led me to propose the Purchasing and Contracting Charter Amendment, which is Prop. H on the November ballot. This measure would give the city more flexibility to select experienced contractors who are able to deliver projects on time and on budget.

“I am very committed to working with city staff to prevent these issues in the future.”

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