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San Diego Claims Shipbuilders & Navy|Have Polluted Harbor for 95 Years

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Sixteen private companies and the U.S. Navy have been polluting San Diego Bay for nearly a century, the City of San Diego claims in Federal Court. The city clams the defendants allow as much as 10 percent of the paint sandblasted from ships to pollute the bay with heavy metals such as copper, chromium and lead.

The city says the Navy, the San Diego Unified Port District, National Steel & Shipbuilding Co. and 15 other ship construction and repair companies have been contaminating the East Shore since from 1914.

Litigation in the 1990s revealed that some defendants, including BAE Systems San Diego Ship Repair, violated the Clean Water Act, the city says. A judge ruled in 1999 that BAE had polluted the bay by its "pattern of poor housekeeping."

San Diego says that the companies, some of which have been operating at the shipyard for 50 years, "intentionally or accidentally" discharged waste from ship painting and refinishing operations into San Diego Bay.

It claims Campbell Industries polluted the bay with formaldehyde from wood treatments, and Sempra Energy subsidiary SDG&E polluted it with PCBs from lube systems at an electrical generating station and oil from settlement ponds.

Lack of storm water runoff controls allowed waste to run into the bay after rains.

At Mole Pier, "trucks and heavy equipment were decontaminated ... by spraying them with diesel fuel and dunking them in Paleta Creek, which flows to the bay," the city says. And PCBs mixed with waste oil was "applied to the ground for dust and weed suppression" in the 1980s, the lawsuit continues, although the soil was moved in the '90s.

The toxic waste zone was topped off by contamination from Navy salvage and storage yards, where materials were dumped and burned for decades.

The contaminated marine sediment hurts wildlife and humans and continues to this day, San Diego says.

The city seeks cleanup costs and indemnification.

It is represented by Brian Ledger with Gordon & Rees.

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