SAN MARCOS — Seven years after being declared an “impaired” or polluted body by the EPA, Lake San Marcos may soon be getting a checkup to determine who and what has been contaminating the water.
Lake San Marcos’ waters are too unhealthy to swim in, and an unprecedented outbreak of cyanobacteria is killing the lake’s ecosystem with toxins. The lake is overdue for inspection, but with California in such a deep financial crisis, formal inspections come slowly.
Lake San Marcos recently advanced in the inspection queue through the efforts of two lakeside residents, Margaret Konn and Fran Burian. Their activism persuaded John Robertus, San Diego Executive Officer for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, or RWQCB, to launch an informal study funded by all of the agencies responsible for the lake.
“What’s happening is people like the city, San Diego County, Vallecitos Water, even the owner of the lake, are blatantly polluting the lake with no regard,” Koon said. “I said enough is enough.”
The water board’s Chiara Clemente has been tapped to coordinate the effort. RWQCB can’t pay for the study alone, so her job is to bring the agencies to the table so they can determine the scope of the study and draft a cooperative agreement to fund it. If this unprecedented voluntary approach works, it could lead to a lake study in a matter of months rather than years.
Getting all of the agencies together could prove tricky. La Jolla Development Group, owner of the lake, told Koon that the company would declare bankruptcy if there was a risk of a lawsuit. The city of San Marcos expressed interest in participating, but stressed that doing so was not an admission of responsibility for the state of the lake.
“We won’t know that until we do the scope of the work,” Storm Water Program Manager Erica Ryan said. “It’s a little premature to assume everything.”
Bill Rucker, general manager for the Vallecitos Water District, said his agency was on board for the study, but put much of the blame for the lake’s impairment on the lakeside homeowners and the fact that lake is not properly aerated.
“We are part of the issue, but we are the minimum part of the issue,” Rucker said. “We can’t take responsibility for a privately owned irrigation pond.”
For the residents’ part, Konn said she and Burian have led efforts to educate them on how to be better neighbors to the lake. They urge residents to stop washing cars in the street or dumping the remnants of barbecues in the water.
The water board will meet with the various agency representatives June 18 with an eye toward a final decision by the end of the month.
“They are our guardian angels,” Konn said of the water board. “They are the only lifesaver we have.”