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The hepatitis A outbreak, which has killed 19 people, is renewing interest in a battle as old as San Diego: The fight against excrement.

The effort to manage sewage has not always gone well for San Diego. But it was looking up until this summer.

Now, a congressman has sounded the alarm about local waterways. And an image problem around sewage has arisen again, like in the 1980s when there so much waste was running into Mission Bay its beaches were closed a quarter of the time.

There’s no indication the current hepatitis outbreak – among the deadliest in America in two decades –  is linked to the sewage from San Diego’s waterways. Rather, the current theory is poor sanitation around homeless encampments fueled the outbreak.

But over the past decade, 20 million gallons of sewage have spilled from the region’s public sewer systems into public waterways. That figure that doesn’t even count the millions of gallons of sewage that have come into the United States from Mexico through the Tijuana River. Things are getting better: In 2000, the city spilled sewage 365 times. Last year, several years after a lawsuit forced the city to clean up its act, there were only 37 spills.

In other hepatitis-related news, the county health department released slightly more helpful information on where victims of the outbreak are from — about two-thirds of those who fell ill live inside the city. Our Lisa Halverstadt recently wrote about why the county claims it can’t release specific information on the victims and she posted some more thoughts yesterday. The county also revealed that more than 500 people have contracted the disease and a 19th person died from it.

Culture: Breaking the Fourth Wall

Playwright Lily Padilla, a student at UC San Diego, was asked to write a play for the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival. Her task? Figure out how to stage something inside of Bread & Salt, the old bread factory turned arts venue in Logan Heights. Her play, “And Then You Wait,” is about people hoping to be rescued, an all-too-common thing these days in a world full of disaster. Her play and many more avant-garde performances at interesting venues around downtown are happening Oct. 19-22. Learn about this and more art in this week’s Culture Report by our Kinsee Morlan.

In Other News

• Police union leaders say they have reached a deal for a new contract with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Their announcement contains no details, though, and a contract requires City Council approval. “This contract proposal for SDPD officers will enable the department to retain experienced officers, attract laterals and the recruits we desperately need,” said Brian Marvel, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association in a statement.

• The San Diego City Council approved a controversial religious resort planned for Mission Valley. As City News Service reports, “the most vocal opposition to the project came from members of the local LGBTQ community. Most of those opponents, however, said publicly that they were only concerned about traffic and other quality of life impacts.” Last month, the City Council voted the project down on a 5-4, party-line vote, with all of the Democrats opposing it. At the time, the Democrats cited traffic concerns as their reason for voting against it, even though city planners have determined that the project will barely increase traffic from what exists today and would produce substantially fewer car trips per acre than the Mission Valley Community Plan allows, as reported in the Union-Tribune at the time. (City News Service)

The city is expanding the features of its popular Get it Done! phone app so people can report more problems they spot around town and also schedule appointments to get a passport, among other tasks. (Union-Tribune)

Chula Vista has long hoped to get a new university within its borders, now it hopes to lure Amazon and also get a university from the deal. The Seattle-based retail giant is searching for a second headquarters. Cities across the country are throwing themselves at the company’s feet, offering major tax incentives and other sweeteners. (ABC 10)

U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, came to San Diego to view border wall prototypes, meet with border patrol agents and see a smuggling tunnel. King, who tweeted pictures from his trip, has long paid attention to immigration issues. Earlier this year he tweeted, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” a comment that prompted other Republican leaders to distance themselves from him.

• Javier Plascencia, a star chef from Tijuana, said he’s worried about this week’s Baja Culinary Fest now that some international chefs have refused to attend because of concerns about violence in Baja. (El Sol de Tijuana via San Diego Reader)

The city is hoping to borrow $1.7 billion in low-interest state loans to help pay for its plan to make wastewater drinkable. (Union-Tribune)

Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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