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When the big rain fell in October, Glenn Davis returned home to Point Loma from a trip, hopped out of his cab and was greeted by an unnerving sight.

Mystery sewer foam.

A thick, oozing mess was spewing up from the storm drain near Davis’ condo at Kellogg Beach in Point Loma, on the bay near Shelter Island.

It was like nothing he’d ever seen before. “It was literally from sidewalk to sidewalk,” he said, “three-and-a-half feet high.”

Davis called the city’s emergency hotline and was told someone would check it out. The mystery mess — pollution, he figured — was oozing into the bay, and Davis was worried. When no one from the city came, he called again. Still no one. He gave up.

“They’re after everybody, don’t wash your cars, be careful when you change your oil,” Davis said. “You do them, and then you call, they’re indifferent.”

Weeks later, Davis believed no one ever came out.

I called Bill Harris, spokesman for the city’s Storm Water Department, which oversees San Diego’s storm-drain system, with 800 miles of pipes that carry off rain.

Harris said his department (which wasn’t called directly) didn’t have a record of the call. But he said the city has previously gotten similar reports about the mystery foam there. No one went after Davis’ call, though.

But Harris said the foam isn’t so mysterious. A big 60-inch pipe runs through the area. Sediment and algae can build up in it. (Algae grow in storm water pipes throughout the year, nourished by irrigation or other runoff trickling in.)

When the first rain hits, Harris said, that big pipe carries a lot of water that blasts the algae and sediment, which then foams up. That froth isn’t harmful to the bay, he said.

“It’s unsightly and makes people worry, it happens in Mission Bay and elsewhere,” Harris said, “but it’s not going to kill benthic or aquatic life if it runs out there.”

Have a problem with your neighborhood’s storm drain? Call the city’s storm water hotline at 619.235.1000.

Please contact Rob Davis directly at or 619.325.0529 and follow him on Twitter:

Rob Davis

Rob Davis was formerly a senior reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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