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Homeowner group wants city to clean up park water

September 02, 2000

Alex Coolman

WEST NEWPORT -- Concerns about young children being exposed to

polluted water has prompted members of a homeowner's association to ask

city officials to give "immediate attention" to the water conditions at a

local park.

The concerns were raised in a letter sent at the end of May and

answered by the city in August. The letter was not intended to be a

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confrontational tactic, said Alan Silcock, president of the West Newport

Beach Assn., which represents area homeowners.

But Silcock says he wanted to make it clear to residents and to the

city that people are paying attention to the problems of pollution in

West Newport.

"What caused me to write the letter that about 30-some-odd people over

the last months have been talking to me about, 'What is the association

doing? What is the city doing?"' to deal with the water, Silcock said.

The focal point for residents' concern is the Channel Place park at

43rd Street and Balboa Boulevard. That park, which is just out of the

hustle of Coast Highway, features a broad lawn, a playground for

children, and a small, sandy beach.

It also features a number of posted warnings about water pollution.

The county of Orange has a sign posted on a wall near the beach noting

bacteria levels in the area exceed state standards.

Another sign, also from the county, notes runoff from storms may

exacerbate the problem because several storm drains empty directly into

the the relatively motionless water.

The Harbor Quality Citizens Advisory Committee of Newport Beach has

posted its own sign at the beach noting that feeding ducks and sea gulls

is not a particularly good idea because "each duck dropping (gulls too)

may contribute millions of bacteria to the water."

Dave Kiff, Newport's deputy city manager, wrote back to the

association with his suggestions for dealing with the situation.

"There are not a lot of answers," he said this week. "I wish there

more."

The association's letter asked about the possibility of diverting

urban runoff from nearby storm drains into the sewer system, arguing the

situation "demands [the city's] prompt attention."

But there are several difficulties with the area from a water quality

point of view, Kiff said. Because it is located in the remotest corner of

Newport Harbor, the tidal flushing action the beach receives is fairly

minimal.

But at the same time, the ebb and flow of the tides means diverting

storm water flow into the county sewer system, as has been tried at other

sites in Newport, is not an option. Kiff said such an approach could

conceivably see large quantities of bay water pushed by the tide into the

sewers.

What can be done instead, he said, is to emphasize the use of "catch

basins" on Balboa Boulevard and Coast Highway so water running off the

street can be filtered to some degree before being dumped in the bay.

"Filters and education, I think, are the best answers," Kiff said.

Both sides say they're encouraged rather than frustrated by the

exchange.

"They've been effective with me in sharing how strong their concerns

are for that area," Kiff said. "I don't think I realized that before."

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