Coastal Post Online


April, 2003

Shotgunning Tomales Bay
By Judy Borello

Having attended a meeting Monday, March 10 at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station hosted by the Tomales Bay Watershed Council, there was one matter most everyone agreed on - the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board's proposed standards of reducing coliform by 75 percent in the year 2007 was unrealistic and unattainable. Rancher Sally Gale said it best, "My concern is that your goal to reduce fecal-coliform levels by 75 percent by 2007 is neither reasonable nor feasible." Becky Tuden of the San Francisco Water Quality Control Board stated that ranchers, farmers, boaters and homeowners would have until 2008 to voluntarily reduce pathogens and after that the Water Board will look at the need for any regulatory action.

Tuden also said that the proposed water quality standards for Tomales Bay were drafted in response to estimates that pollution in the bay should actually be reduced by 95 percent if she and her colleagues are to stop calling the bay "impaired."

Tuden conceded, "We don't really know if it's an accurate estimate but it's a goal we're going to shoot for." None of this is based on scientific fact or common sense. It's the old shotgun approach. If you spray enough bullets, maybe one will hit the target.

I remember at a meeting some years ago, Mr. Ed Stewart, who was then Chief of Marin County Environmental Health, stated that if you removed all cows and people from Tomales Bay, you would still have high coliform counts at certain times because of the wildlife.

While the ranchers and homeowners are kept jumping through hoops unnecessarily, costing them money, energy and stress, the powers that be keep coming up with newer regulations that are impossible to meet. Some people believe that this is the way the powers that be retain their jobs - by causing problems that don't exist for their own job security. How come if the bay is so impaired that our own native oysters are on a comeback?

Why, every time something happens to a non-native oyster, there's a big hullabaloo and the shotgun approach is a call to arms to point the finger (not John) at ranchers or septic tanks along the bay?

Why are the fingers pointed at the east shore of Tomales Bay and not the west shore of Tomales Bay where a lot of homes are at sea level? I thought this was supposed to be a fair playing field.

And what about the chemicals that will certainly do a lot more harm to the bay and all its creatures including the almighty oysters which we love to consume? MTBE and petrol chemicals are much more toxic than coliform. So, I guess the answers are: ranchers diaper your cows, tourists go home, and homeowners abandon your houses now before the septic police come for you.

Then a swat team will be sent out here to destroy all wildlife and divers will go under water to kill all wildlife that live in the water, and also defecate!

How else do you reduce coliform by 75 percent?

Once all wildlife is exterminated, be it on land or aquatic, and the homeowners, tourists and ranchers are gone, the bay will be purified!

Oh, I forgot, the oysters will have to go too because they also defecate and that ain't no shit! Lloyd Kahn published a newsletter entitled, "West Marin Homeowner's Septic Gazette, Volume 1" and handed it out at the meeting. It's very interesting and full of facts. You can write Lloyd at PO Box 279, Bolinas, CA 94924. A lot of time and fact-finding went into his research and he covers much territory pertaining to DNA testing, water-borne diseases, and the correlation to septic research.

One fact that was presented under the title, "No Shit": according to the Center for Disease Control, in the last 10 years there is no evidence of outbreaks of infectious diseases in the US attributable to surfacing effluent from failing septic systems.

Anybody concerned or interested in this subject should contact Lloyd Kahn of Bolinas and get a copy of the Septic Gazette - it's a must read!

The oyster growers knew coming into the game that there were risks - after a rainstorm of a certain volume that they would have to close down for a specific amount of time. This regulation has been lowered but not lowered enough to suit them. While the ranchers and homeowners have to expend money and stress repeatedly to appease these people, they should do something themselves and expend their money on new state-of-the-art filtration systems. I know they are expensive, but the cost to agriculture and homeowners is a cost that they can't bear anymore. Dairies have gone out of business and agriculture puts a lot of money in our county coffers.

All things being fair and equal, some people say maybe the oysters should go if everybody on the bay has to pay such a horrendous price to keep them.

P.S. And I sure love oysters!



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