Air Force Promises to Treat Vandenberg Stormwater
HALF MOON BAY, California, March 31, 2008 (ENS) - The U.S. Air Force has always intended to treat stormwater runoff from its Pillar Point station before discharging it into the San Mateo harbor, an official assured the local newspaper, the "Half Moon Bay Review," on Wednesday.

On March 26, the paper reported that the Air Force planned to discharge stormwater from Vandenberg Air Force Base that is contaminated with high metal and coliform counts into Pillar Point Harbor.

Peter Grenell, general manager of the San Mateo County Harbor District, warned that the stormwater would create a "hazard to human health" and sent a letter to the Air Force requesting that the stormwater be treated before discharge.

"We think there's a tremendous misunderstanding in the response from the San Mateo County Harbor District," said George Croll, chief of environmental compliance at Vandenberg Air Force Base, which operates the Pillar Point station.

Croll pointed to a March 3 letter from the Air Force sent to the base's neighbors requesting comment on how to handle the stormwater to keep it from entering a federally protected marine area.

Based on two instances of on-site testing conducted in February 2006 and 2007, the stormwater that enters Fitzgerald Marine Reserve contains as much as 81.9 milligrams of nitrogen per liter of water. Recommended levels allow no more than 0.4 milligrams per liter.

The water contains between two and four times the acceptable amount of copper, and readings for zinc were also high.

"Typically those are the result of paint on buildings that could contain zinc. You have chain link fences that are coated with zinc to prevent rust," Croll said, explaining the Air Force's theory for how the metals entered the runoff. "Those types of metals are coming off fences, structures."

The data for fecal coliform shows levels thousands of times higher than the maximum recommended levels of 230 units per 100 milliliters.

On February 17, 2006, the test determined amounts to be over 1,600 units; a year later, the amounts topped 41,000 units, according to the newspaper report.

Vandenberg has signed a contract with Tetra Tech, a Santa Maria consulting firm, to design and build a treatment facility at the Pillar Point station.

Croll said Vandenberg will continue to gather input from San Mateo County and state agencies about how to treat the water and discharge it appropriately.

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