Council members urge action to stop Hepatitis A amid concerns over water quality
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The Hepatitis A outbreak is an obvious public health emergency, but what is less obvious to some; it’s also an environmental one.
As documented by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board, many of the county’s waterways show fecal contamination and the presence of Hepatitis A.
According to the board, human waste that originates from homeless encampments along creeks and rivers is a major source of the fecal contamination. Two San Diego City Council members recently wrote a joint letter expressing their concern about the effects of the outdoor camps on the San Diego River.
The letter, dated September 14 is addressed to the Mayor of San Diego, the County, the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Council members David Alvarez and Lorie Zapf urged a multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction approach to breaking down the illegal encampments and re-locating occupants to shelters where they would have access to toilets and other sanitation facilities.
Zapf said the community must come together and say there will be places for those without shelter to go, to seek help and be safe.
”But we’re not going to allow the contamination and pollution of our watershed anymore,” Zapf said.
Alvarez wants the City of San Diego to consider the use of unoccupied city-owned properties as temporary shelters.
“There’s the old Chargers training facility sitting there vacant, there is Golden Hall downtown that gets very rarely used, and the old central library is still there. Under this state of emergency, the Council has declared, every city facility could be used without any future action or any sort of other hurdles along the way, and the City is protected from any potential damages that occur as a result of using those facilities as shelters,” Alvarez said.
The council member said the city would be protected from legal challenges. Alvarez described the use of these properties as only temporary until more permanent affordable housing is available.