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The Dark Side of Population Growth

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
February 13, 2000


To support their jihad, proponents of Growth here in North County are quick to share three tightly held beliefs; growth is inevitable, growth makes the local economy strong, and growth creates jobs. Where I will concede the third point, the first two are without merit and should be dispelled at every utterance.  There are other myths supporting the development theology, but these seem to be the ones most often mentioned.

One reality of population growth the development industry, and the people they elect to office, fails to mention when promoting their dreams and schemes to the court of public opinion, is the of amount of fecal matter being generated by our growing population. Oh sure, we hear about traffic gridlock and overcrowded schools resulting from rapidly increasing populations, but how often do pro-growthers talk about sewage infrastructure and the amount of human waste being dumped in the ocean. Developers may believe they can build their way out of gridlock and crowded classrooms, but can they build their way past the constant stream of human excrement entering our ecosystem? The answer is a resounding no.

Last week in Oceanside their were two sewage spills into the Buena Vista Creek. Resulting in the spillage of nearly 2 million gallons of human waste into the environment, these spills only highlight how perilous placing sewage pipes next to creeks really is. According to Clay Clifton of the county's Department of Environmental Health the Buena Vista Lagoon was definitely contaminated, so much so aerators had to be put into service to maintain oxygen levels in the lagoon, as a way of mitigating the effects the spill will have on marine life.

Barry Martin, Oceanside's water utilities director stated that the first spill, which happened on the morning of January 29, was the work of vandals. Rocks thrown into the sewer line caused a backup which dumped 115,000 gallons of sewage into the creek along College Boulevard. The second spill, less than 48 hours later, dumped 1.7 million gallons into the creek, the cause of the pipe failure is still unknown. Occurring 12ft. beneath Buena Vista Creek, it is safe to say that repairing the pipe failure will be as damaging to the fragile creek ecosystem as the spill itself. Backhoes do not a good neighbor make.

This is one of the problems with the riparian/wildlife corridor" policies being implemented by local agencies and the City of Carlsbad. Not only does it discourage species viability, it also leaves fragmented habitats vulnerable to human induced impacts such as illegal dumping, domestic pets, and the recent sewer spills. As well meaning as the Multiple Habitat Conservation Plan and the Multiple Species Conservation Plan may be, natural spaces in Coastal North County lack significant protection from everything human. I still can't fathom how anyone could think paralleling sewage pipes along natural water courses was anything but stupid. Maybe this is why certain elected officials seemed enamored with the toilet to tap concept.

Recycling waste water into a potable resource is missing the point entirely. The problem is not that there is not enough water in Southern California, or that the sewage infrastructure needs expansion and upgrades. The dark side of uncontrolled population growth is that along with the new jobs comes enough crap to bury the county three feet deep in doo doo. And since humans find it distasteful to be confronted with their own waste, our only option is to flush it in to the Pacific and be done with it. If only it was that easy.

Reality check #842: Southern California is a desert. When living in a desert the wise course of action is to protect any and all water resources. Placing sewage pipes within contamination range of said water resources, runs the gamut between foolish and suicidal. It's a good thing the people of Oceanside don't count on this Buena Vista Creek for fresh water, like they once did, otherwise they would be either sick or thirsty.

Now that I think of it, it's forbidden to swim in local reservoirs due to the possibility of contamination of the water, and subsequent threats to human health. Yet water districts all over the county place sewage treatment facilities next to riparian corridors without a second thought to environmental health. What is up with that? In my humble opinion this is just another example of civilization's complete disconnection from the natural world. With millions of gallons of human excrement flowing into the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis, how could it be anything less?

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