Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stagnant Lagoons Cause Problems

"... a mixture of non-petroleum-based fats or oils. Non-petroleum oils include synthetic oils, such as silicone fluids, tung oils, and wood-derivative oils such as resin/rosin, animal fats and vegetable oils."

(Below is my opinion piece from the April 9 issue of The Alameda Sun points an accusing finger at Alameda's finger lagoons as the cause of the Bay Area's Seabird Massacre of 2015.)

Built more than fifty years ago, Alameda's Finger Lagoons that stretch from Court Street to Westline Drive have evoked mystic phrases like, "Venice of California." They border some of Alameda's nicest homes. On Google Maps, they look like a thin blue cutworm crawling across the city's main island.

But beauty and cach'e come at a price. The lagoons can be an attractive nuisance. Recently a man was seen dumping a tub of soiled cat litter over the railing of his second floor balcony.

The Finger Lagoons have aesthetic appeal, but for some they have become an ecological nightmare. Global warming has turned stagnant bodies of water into algae farms. Algae love still water, heat and bright sunlight. Last year was the hottest on record in Northern California, with a record number of sunny days as well.

By contrast, the tree-shaded lagoons on Bay Farm Island were designed with 1970s  technology. No fingers impede flow. An aeration system keeps the water oxygenated. The aging lagoons on Alameda Island are not aerated and have little shade. With no aeration system, algae growth in these older lagoons must be controlled with chemicals. It's these chemicals I have a problem with.

Over the past ten years, signs have been posted at Alameda's beaches warning not to go into the water. Some unknown hazard makes peoples' legs sting. Could the mysterious source of that sting be chemicals released from the lagoons?

Our beaches are covered with sand reclaimed from just offshore. Was that sand tested for toxins first? Are tiny children and  mothers safe in that sand?

Last October I observed someone in a Clean Lakes, Inc. truck taking a water sample from a lagoon. According to its web site, Clean Lakes is a global expert in "clarifying" inland waterways with toxic agricultural chemicals. A city engineer told me the company was essentially a lagoon janitorial service. Good thing I'm not that gullible.

The same engineer said the lagoon dredging solids were dumped "at Alameda Point on a toxic hot spot." Well, what about the liquids? You know the ones that went out that pipe into San Francisco Bay?

Last October I observed a plume of grey sludge and debris in San Leandro Bay that I suspect came from dredging the lagoons. This will be hard to prove, but Cal Fish and Wildlife said they would send someone out to take samples. I filed a complaint with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

We will get to the bottom of this.

Maybe those 1950s-era lagoons should be filled in, made into a park.

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