I heard back this morning from John Robertus, the executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, the state agency that regulates water pollution. I called him yesterday to get his response to criticism from State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who is introducing legislation this week that she says will make the board more responsive to the public. In a news release yesterday, Kehoe focused her criticism on the pace of the cleanup of contaminated sediment in San Diego Bay.

Robertus said his agency must move slowly and carefully as it determines how the cleanup should proceed. He pointed to the creation of digital records from decades’ worth of paper detailing San Diego Bay’s pollution as being a particularly onerous task. To date, a stack of paper at least 120 feet tall — some 60,000 pages — has been converted to digital records.

Here’s what Robertus had to say about his agency and the pace of cleanup for contaminated San Diego Bay sediment:

We are working to the full extent of our resources to clean up San Diego Bay. We have a history of cleanup sites throughout the bay. All things considered, I’d certainly like to have already initiated the order to clean up and it would be underway, but we are reasonably sure there will be lawsuits.

We have never had a case at this board with such an extensive record of documents — and that’s because some of the pollution … happened 50 years ago. It’s a very complex issue. This has to be absolutely right. If we proceed with the case and there’s flawed processes or flawed thoroughness, it’s like having a mistrial, we’ll have to start over.

ROB DAVIS

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