A high-tech ultraviolet disinfection system was installed at Poche Beach in Dana Point a few years ago, and while it cleans most of the run-off that flows into the ocean, it doesn’t help with the green-tinted, slimy pool filled with bacteria that sits at the beach’s entrance.
Could micro magnets solve Poche’s pollution puzzle?
A forum last week brought city and county officials, local residents, water quality advocates and scientists together to discuss a new technology that could help make Poche – long regarded as one of the most polluted areas along Orange County’s coastline – pristine for beachgoers.
The meeting was spearheaded by Global Environmental Legacy Foundation, founded by San Clemente resident Brett Danson.
Danson came across a video showing Adam Stein, founder of Pasadena-based Advantageous Systems, gulping down a cup of water previously filled with E. coli, before it was treated with the magnetic particle technology seconds earlier.
While Stein didn’t slurp contaminated water at the Poche presentation, he did show how a jug of dirty run-off water pulled through the magnetic purification system cleaned the water of bacteria bits.
“We’re actually removing things in the water,” he said, explaining how the bacteria binds with the magnet.
The magnets can be set to bind and target specific bacteria. Once all the magnets and bacteria are attracted to one area, they can be put into a bio-waste.
Poche Beach has been off Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer list for the past few years, based on samples taken in the ocean showing that the UV filtration system, combined with shooing off birds so they don’t leave behind feces, seems to be working offshore.
But continued frustration lays with a stagnant pool.
“There has been some improvements, but there’s still some problems there,” said Rick Wilson, senior staff scientist at San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation.
Recent testing shows that a “novel, unusual” bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, was found in the pond. It’s not the expected bacteria the county and other agencies normally test for.
“When I saw the results of the testing, I didn’t know what it meant, there’s no standard for that bacteria,” Wilson said. “When I started reading up on it, it’s somewhat concerning. While it causes skin infections, it has been known to cause more serious problems. It adds some urgency to addressing the pollution problems.”
A new study from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy said the bacteria is extremely drug resistant, and can cause serious respiratory issues, especially among youth. It can lead to a variety of infections, from minor skin and ear problems to more serious blood, urine, and respiratory infections, the report shows.
Advantageous Systems has conducted tests at Poche three times to see if the nano-magnets work. Four different bacteria were nearly eliminated.
They have also taken the technology to the Salton Sea, a lake near the Imperial and Cochella valleys that has a problem with selenium credited with a massive bird die-off. Tests show the magnets were able to eliminate selenium from run-off before it enters the lake.
Stein said communities need to start thinking of long-term, cost-effective water conservation solutions.
“We can’t just wait around and say, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ Stein said. “We have the same amount of water in the world as we’ve always had, but that water’s changing.”
Paige Foreman, who has lived in nearby Shorecliffs for 25 years, said it has been decades of frustration as residents try to get the pond area taken care of but continually encounter roadblocks.
“We’ve been battling this for a long, long time,” she said. “I’m so thrilled this is being brought back up again. So many of us have been hitting our heads against the wall for so, so long. It’s frustrating to know there’s an easy answer to this.”
One proposed solution was to knock down the sand berm to let the stagnant water flow out to sea. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, however, argues grunion will be disturbed if tractors are brought in to knock down a berm that creates the pond.
Meanwhile, the California Coastal Commission won’t allow the pipe with UV-treated water to extend further out to sea, so some spills into the pond and then bacteria forms, she said.
“We need to think about our kids that use this beach – over the drop of oil, over the grunion, over an unsightly pipe,” she said. “Think about the kids that are supposed to be swimming in this water. Let’s make this happen once and for all. We have so many people who want to do it. It’s great they are bringing attention to it again.”
Surfrider Foundation South County President Rick Erkeneff said if a magnet pilot program at Poche works, the technology could be far reaching.
“I think what happens here in Poche is a pattern up and down the coast,” he said. “We’re not in the business of pointing fingers, but we need to come together collectively, we need to be arm in arm in this. … It’s not just for this location, but every location.”
Post time: Dec-03-2016