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Lack of O.C. Pump-Outs Blamed for Boat Sewage

October 17, 2002|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Orange County boaters may be illegally dumping raw sewage into the ocean because the harbor pump-out stations designed to transport it safely to shore are largely inoperable, according to a study released by an environmental group this week.

The report by Orange County Coastkeeper of Newport Beach warns of the serious potential for environmental damage.

"I've heard a number of other boaters in the harbor complain," said Roberta Jorgensen, a Coastkeeper board member who owns a 33-foot power boat in Newport Harbor. "They just can't find [a pump-out station] that works, so they go out and dump into the ocean."

Coastal regulations prohibit the dumping of sewage within three miles of shore.

Kurt Berchtold, a spokesman for the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, which oversees two of the county's three harbors, said he hadn't seen the group's report and couldn't comment.

Larry Honeybourne, chief of the Orange County Health Care Agency's water quality section, said the county had set up a committee about six months ago to examine problems related to the more than 30 harbor pump-out stations. According to the survey -- conducted from June through September during peak boating season -- only 44% of the stations in Huntington Harbour were operational. Similarly, the report said, about 69% of the Newport Harbor stations were functioning.

The report's authors assigned grades of F and D+ to the two harbors, respectively. Dana Point Harbor -- overseen by the Regional Water Quality Control Board's San Diego office -- earned a B, with 81.25% of stations functioning.

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