Sad to say, San Diegans are used to reading about sewage problems. Most often, the troubled area is the South Bay, where Tijuana-generated sewage cascades periodically down canyons and then works its way west to pollute the Imperial Beach waterfront.
For years, South Bay officials have pushed to solve the problem, but have faced a thicket of jurisdictions stretching from San Diego to Sacramento, and from there to Washington and Mexico City.
Recent events point again to a sewage problem. This time, however, the site is North San Diego County, and the source is not an impoverished population in a foreign land, but the relatively affluent cities of Oceanside, Fallbrook, Escondido and Rancho Bernardo. And this time, concerned residents and officials face not a labyrinth of government, but essentially one state agency that makes decisions in response to requests by local water officials to waive strict sewage treatment standards.
Recently, more than 100 North County residents at a state Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting in Del Mar protested the proposed relaxation of treatment standards for the Oceanside/Fallbrook and Escondido/San Diego County sewage systems. Both entities discharge millions of gallons of treated sewage daily into the ocean, and each claims it could save millions of dollars by lowering treatment standards--allowed under a 1977 federal Clean Water Act amendment--without adverse effects to health or the shore environment.