A recent, devastating 50 million-gallon sewage spill in Oahu, Hawaii has caused me to reflect on the fragility of the ocean and surrounding beaches on the Central Coast.
Three weeks ago, a sewer main in Hawaii ruptured, sending raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal, on the famous south shore of Oahu near Waikiki, closing some of the state’s most popular beaches.
Two people were hospitalized after being infected with numerous dangerous strains of bacteria. One died after being in critical condition for several days and after he had his leg amputated.
It may seem like a sewage spill in Hawaii has nothing to do with the beaches of California, but perhaps being a surfer and spending much of my life strolling in the sand and splashing in the waves of the California beaches, has made me pay closer attention to the delicate, endangered condition of the Central Coast.
Not far from one of the Central Coast’s treasured landmarks and one of my favorite surf spots, Morro Rock, lies an environmental disaster waiting to happen. The amount of polluted ground water seeping out of Los Osos’ septic tanks and into Morro Bay from its accompanying estuary is much less than the millions of gallons of raw sewage spilled in Hawaii, but it is enough to have a destructive effect on the environment of our coastline.
The controversy over the sewer system is obviously a complex one, stressing cost and location as major points of disagreement, but the most important matter to be addressed, keeping Los Osos’ groundwater and our coastlines clean and safe, has been all but lost in a storm of political debate. The longer Los Osos residents argue about the sewer, the more polluted water from septic tanks we will have to deal with in Morro Bay.
It is obvious that there are no easy solutions to a problem as complicated as the one facing Los Osos. After all, it does take a lot of time, money and consideration to build an entirely new sewer system. However, a lot of damage has already been done while the debate persists, and we must take steps to make sure that we are not ruining one of our most valuable natural resources over a difference of opinion.
What happened in Hawaii should be a cautionary tale to the Central Coast. It’s true what they say: you don’t appreciate what you have until you’ve lost it.
So let’s make sure we never lose it. Nobody can jump in and solve all of Los Osos’ problems, but there are a lot of little ways we can all do more to protect our coast, the greatest asset of our little community.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most of the litter in our bays, rivers and oceans comes directly from suburban streets. Disposing of cigarette butts properly, not littering, not allowing paint and detergents to go down the gutter and reusing household wastewater for gardening are all simple and effective ways that residents in San Luis Obispo can cut down on the amount of pollution seeping on to our beaches.
I urge everyone not to let the most charming quality of our beautiful area go to waste. After all, there is no Central Coast without the coast.
Amy Dierdorff is a journalism junior and Mustang Daily reporter