Carlsbad CA— Thanks to North County resident Janis Selby Jones and San Diego Coastkeeper, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board recently issued an enforcement action to solve a water pollution issue that has been occurring under the radar for years. The problem came to light after Jones’ ongoing visits to a Carlsbad beach revealed a trend in unusual plastic pieces washing ashore, prompting Jones to report the observation to her local Coastkeeper organization.
Jones collects marine debris she finds on the beach to repurpose as works of art. Most of what she collects is identifiable as trash from human consumption, but one object stumped the local artist. Jones didn’t recognize the small sprocket-like plastic pieces and after finding an abundant amount, she felt compelled to find out from where these mystery objects were coming. She asked around and discovered the pieces were plastic biofilters — often used in industrial facilities to filter pollution.
“I assumed the nearby sewage treatment plant was the culprit,” says Jones. “I called the plant to report what I was finding and spoke to an engineer who assured me that they do not use that type of biofilter. I was glad that they weren’t the source but felt frustrated that I didn’t have an answer.”
When Jones called San Diego Coastkeeper’s pollution reporting hotline to inform the water watchdogs of her observations, Coastkeeper’s Legal and Policy Director Matt O’Malley knew this was a real problem that needed to be addressed.
Upon further investigation, Coastkeeper discovered that the biofilters were coming from the HUBBS—Seaworld aquaculture facility in Carlsbad. Coastkeeper worked with Jones to pull together the evidence and bring the issue to the Regional Board — the agency charged with ensuring clean water rules are followed. As a result of the complaint, the Regional Board inspected the facility on June 28 and issued a letter to HUBBS— Seaworld holding the aquaculture farm accountable for polluting the ocean with plastic and requiring them to come into compliance.
“Coastkeeper relies on the eyes and ears of the public to help us protect and restore our waters,” says O’Malley. “We hope Jones’ story inspires more locals to start their own neighborhood water watch.”
“I was grateful that Coastkeeper not only took the pollution seriously, they helped me crack the case and put an end to it,” says Jones. “I expect to find fewer and fewer biofilters over time, but I will continue to clean the beach as often as I can to keep an eye on any other mysteries that wash up.”
Coastkeeper’s pollution reporting page and hotline can be found through its website. The water watchdogs ask all San Diegans to help protect their waters by reporting any pollution or water wasting they see.