Stagnant Lagoons Cause Problems

Built more than 50 years ago, the lagoons that stretch from Court Street to Westline Drive have evoked mystic phrases like, "Venice of California." They border some of Alameda’s nicest homes. On Google Maps, the lagoons look like a thin blue cutworm crawling across the city of Alameda. But beauty and cache come at a price. Some see the lagoons as an attractive nuisance. Recently a man was seen dumping a tub of soiled cat litter over the railing of his second floor balcony.

These lagoons have aesthetic appeal, but for some they have become an ecological nightmare. Global warming has turned stagnant bodies of water into algae farms. Algae love still water, heat and bright sunlight. Last year was the hottest on record in Northern California, with a record number of sunny days as well.

By contrast, the tree-shaded lagoons on Bay Farm Island were designed with 1970s-era technology. No fingers impede flow. An aeration system keeps the water oxygenated. The aging lagoons in Alameda proper are not aerated have little shade. Without an aeration system, algae growth in these lagoons must be controlled with chemicals. Its these chemicals I have a problem with these chemicals.

Over the past 10 years, signs have been posted at Alameda’s beaches warning not to go into the water. Some unknown hazard makes peoples’ legs sting. Could the mystery source of that sting be chemicals released from the lagoons?

Our beaches are covered with sand reclaimed just offshore. Was that sand tested for toxins first? Are children and mothers safe in that sand?

Last October I observed someone from Clean Lakes Inc. taking a water sample from a lagoon. According to its web site, Clean Lakes is a global expert in "clarifying" inland waterways with toxic agricultural chemicals. A city engineer told me that the company was basically a lagoon janitorial service. I’m not that gullible.

The same engineer told me the lagoon dredging solids were dumped at Alameda Point on a toxic "hot spot." Well, what about the liquids, you know, the ones that went out that pipe into San Francisco Bay?

Last October I also observed a plume of grey sludge and debris in San Leandro Bay that I strongly suspect came from dredging the lagoons. This will be hard to prove, but Cal Fish and Wildlife said they would send someone out to take samples. I recently filed a complaint with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

We will get to the bottom of this. Maybe these 1950s-era lagoons should be filled in, made into a park.

Monty J Heying lives in
Alameda.