Muddying the Waters

The Air Force and California local and state officials are working to resolve how the service will redirect stormwater from the radar station at Pillar Point AFS into Pillar Point Harbor off the San Mateo coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz without posing a pollution danger to wildlife or humans in the area. The Air Force used to channel untreated water from the facility the nearby beach at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, reported March 30. But in 2004, the state of California found USAF in violation of the state’s ocean plan because the discharge had pollutants at levels exceeding the federal Clean Water Act, including elevated amounts of fecal coliform bacteria, nitrogen and heavy metals such as copper and zinc, the Web site report said. This forced the Air Force to come up with another solution. But the service’s current plan—to channel stormwater into the west side of the harbor, which lies directly below the radar station—is also arousing the concern of local officials. They say there are no details in the new plan on how USAF will filter or treat the water going into the harbor, thus raising new pollution concerns. But Air Force representatives say they fully intend to treat the storm water so that it does not pollute the area. “We want to make sure that we choose the right method that satisfies everybody” and results in discharge that “is acceptable, clean and meets all legal requirements,” said George Croll, chief of environmental compliance at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., which oversees the radar station.