Water pollution at Mission Bay alters class schedule

by Alex Hall, Staff Writer

San Diego’s recent rain led the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health to issue countywide water advisory until Jan. 27.

The advisory warned people to stay out of the water for at least 72 hours after it rained to avoid exposure to contaminated water.

Coastal waters become contaminated by urban runoff after it rains, causing bacteria levels to rise to a potentially dangerous level, MBAC Instructional Coordinator Paul Lang said.

San Diego State watersport classes offered at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center can be affected by these advisories.

MBAC offers sailing, surfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, wakesurfing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, rowing and windsurfing to students for college credit through SDSU’s School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences.

Recent water contamination has caused a weeklong delay in the swim assessments the center usually conducts during  the first week, Lang said.

MBAC Paddling Program Assistant James Baluyut said if students show up and it is a really rainy day or if a storm just happened, “they will have an on-land activity such as a powerpoint lecture or an exam.”

According to the Department of Environmental Health, any time there is .20 inches of rain or more along the coast or valley areas, general rain advisories are issued.

Lang said MBAC conducts their own water testing for bacteria if there is reason to believe there was not a significant amount of rain, or if the center’s historical data indicates that it would not be dangerous to go in the water.

If the center’s tests confirm bacteria levels are unsafe, then all the classes stay out of the water, Lang said. However, if the bacteria levels are low enough, most water lessons will continue to hold class.

Baluyut said they run 10 different water samples during one testing period. If the results show the bacteria count is normal, then participants sign waivers acknowledging that there might be some risk of elevated bacteria count.

Under those circumstances, he said the full immersion classes, such as surfing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing, are still exempt from entering in the water.

Lang said MBAC receives notifications from the county whenever there is an issue with water quality and they can check online at any time.

“San Diego and specifically Mission Bay has had a bad reputation in the past for the water being polluted,” Lang said. “I’ve been working on the Bay since 1999 and it’s a lot cleaner now than it use to be.”

Business management sophomore Lindsay Brewer, who is enrolled in a surfing class this semester, said she hopes the rain does not continue to cause this problem throughout the next few weeks so she can get in the water as soon as possible.

The total rainfall for San Diego in 2016 was 10.2 inches for the year. Reports predict the rain will start again the first few days of February.

Correction: The original headline “Water pollution at Mission Bay causes class cancellations” incorrectly implied that classes were canceled. Classes were still held, but the swimming assessments were delayed due to the water pollution.