Fishing from a dock on the bay shouldn't be an invitation to cancer. Yet decades of chemical and pesticide runoffs from sewers and industry have deposited a layer of dangerous toxics on the bottom of San Francisco Bay.
A bill on Governor Wilson's desk would commit the state to cleaning up the lethal muck pinpointed by prior studies. The measure, AB 2339 by Assemblyman Mike Sweeney, a Hayward Democrat, ends further delays in cleaning the contamination in bay waters both here and in Southern California.
A prior bill was vetoed by Wilson, but this one was passed with bipartisan support. Industry and environmentalists have compromised to a large degree on wording that could end years of fighting.
The bill builds on $16 million in studies that have pinpointed nine toxic hotspots, mostly near shipyards and shoreline refineries in the East Bay and San Francisco. Over past decades, mercury, dioxin, DDT and PCBs from sewer pipes have settled to the bottom. Now it's time to dredge this detritus or pour a cap of stable soil over the chemicals.
The danger lies in doing nothing. Though the substances generally remain in definable areas, fish traveling through end up getting caught from nearby piers or boats. The lethal chemicals build up in fish tissue, which in turn are eaten by fishermen and their families. For some anglers, the fish are cheap source of food and have become a staple in their diets. But state scientists recommend eating no more than two meals a month of bay-caught fish. The situation cannot be allowed to continue.
Paying for the work remains to be done. Bond money is one avenue, or fees can be assessed on those responsible for the problem. But the state must first commit itself to ending the danger of this harmful sediment. Governor Wilson should sign the bill to correct a health hazard.
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