Cove lifeguards working amid ‘sewage gasses’

A report from the Teamster Local 911 lifeguard union to the City of San Diego, which La Jolla Light has accessed, points out the presence of an open pump containing sewage inside The Cove Lifeguard Tower. It reads: “(There is) sewage in a sump pump that is located in tower. There is no ventilation and the lid is not airtight. Sewage gasses are constantly being breathed by staff.”

The City of San Diego confirmed the existence of the problem via a statement from Public Information Officer Katie Keach and added that measures have been taken to remedy the situation. “The pump lid was dislodged. It has been re-secured and will again be airtight when a piece from the pump’s manufacturer arrives and is installed,” Keach wrote the Light.

The pump room, which was used for storage, will be emptied out but remain accessible, and a small area adjacent to the pump room will be enclosed “to ensure ongoing operability and accessibility to the pump for future maintenance and repair needs,” according to the City.

The Cove lifeguard tower, which was officially opened in October 2015, cost $1.8 million and featured several problems during and after construction. The original schedule for the tower’s completion was March 2015, and alleged problems with the quality of the work done by the contractor and a storm that partially flooded the station under construction, pushed the deadline from the spring to the fall of 2015.

Once the project was done, criticism included the lack of an awning on the east side of the tower to block the sun, reflective windows inside the tower that caused visual distortion and uneven stairs that resulted in trip hazards for the lifeguards.

In the same document to the City, lifeguards complained about staph infections contracted by five lifeguards associated with The Cove station, which La Jolla Light reported in the “The Cove: Health Risk?” story published Oct. 20. (Read it online at

Sewage problems at Children’s Pool Tower, too

The yet-to-be fully operational lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool (aka Casa Beach) faced further negative appraisal from the union: “There are sewer gasses in the tower caused by the failing pump station and an open grate full of sewage. The water inside the grate tested positive for fecal bacteria, Coliform and others.”

The tower, which was partially opened to the public in June, included a 12-restroom comfort station and was never fully taken over by lifeguards. Three weeks after the opening, the restrooms had to be closed due to sewage backups.

The City maintains that the pump station at Children’s Pool is operational “and supports the La Jolla Children’s Pool Lifeguard Station and the adjacent public restrooms.” However, it admits to a clogging at the facility due to hygiene products being flushed down the toilets at the comfort station.

“Once cleaned, and with the obstructions removed, the original pumps operated as designed. However, because of the increased frequency of the backups caused by items that are not supposed to be flushed down the toilets, the restrooms were closed for public use in July 2016,” Keach stated. “To help ensure the longer term functionality of the facilities, vortex-style pumps are currently being installed, which provide greater benefits than the initial pumps installed.

“In addition, a new remote notification alarm system is also being installed to notify City personnel of high wastewater levels and of any pump failures. The notification system will help to prevent backups,” she added.

Teamster Local 911 also highlights the presence of “layers of bird feces around the tower, on rails and landings” at the Children’s Pool Station. Its report reads, “There are rat feces all around the tower due to poor construction.”

Other improvements underway at the tower, according to the City, include new flooring to seal the facility, a solid lid to replace the original open grate, and pest control.

“The City hired a pest control company to remedy the issue and trash containers were removed. No infestations have been reported within the facility (since). The City is considering trash container replacement options and evaluating alternate locations in the vicinity,” Keach reported.

Recent press investigations revealed the eventual cost of the Children’s Pool facility was $4.6 million.

The City expects the Children’s Pool comfort station to reopen within the next two months, “The pumps are already installed, and we believe the comfort stations will be open by the end of November,” Keach said.