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County May Create Beach Pollution Agency


The Orange County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal by Supervisor Tom Wilson to create a separate department to deal exclusively with beach pollution and contaminated urban runoff.

Urban runoff has "suddenly come up very high on our priority list," said Supervisor Chuck Smith.

The proposal for a Division of Watershed and Coastal Resources will be considered next week, Smith said.

"I don't know if setting up a separate department is a good idea, but we're certainly going to focus a lot of attention on our beaches this year," Smith added.

Environmentalists and the public have grown increasingly concerned about the health of the Orange County beaches since the extended closures of beachfront in Huntington Beach last summer.

Smith said supervisors are taking the issue very seriously, and that building earthen berms to keep contaminated water from reaching the coast would be one of the first strategies.

"It's going to hurt the economy of Orange County if people can't come out and enjoy our beaches," said Smith. "It would hurt our tourist trade and the economies of our cities. It's not just a beach [city] problem. Runoff from the inland cities also contributes to the problem."

Smith said that starting in July the board has approved a street-sweeping plan for unincorporated areas of the county to "pick up a lot of the dust and dirt that would be washed down into the sewers and washed out to sea."

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