This November, among the important issues that San Francisco voters will be asked to decide is whether to rename a city sewage plant in honor of President Bush. The measure qualified for the ballot on July 7 after organizers turned in over 12,000 signatures in support. The measure, if passed, would rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the "George W. Bush Sewage Plant."
The "Presidential Memorial Commission," better known as Brian McConnell and some friends, said it had come up with the idea "over some beers" and thought that renaming the plant would be a good idea. "We think that it’s important to remember our leaders in the right historical context," McConnell said. "In President Bush’s case, we think that we will be cleaning up a substantial mess for the next 10 or 20 years. The [plant’s] job is to clean up a mess, so we think it’s a fitting tribute."
Of course, that doesn’t work as an analogy, unless McConnell believes that Bush, like the plant, will be helping to clean up any substantial messes. So some cynics think that the sponsors just want to associate Bush with sewage. And there is no disputing that the Oceanside plant discharges one hell of a lot of, shall we say, "effluent." The SF Public Utilities Commission’s website says that the plant treats 17 million gallons a day, or up to 65 million during wet weather. After trash, grit, and biosolids (one of my favorite euphemisms) are removed, the effluent is discharged into the ocean. And "[b]ecause of the remarkable Southwest Ocean Outfall line [a deep-water outlet 4 miles out in the Pacific], the OSP does not have to disinfect its final effluent flow." Hooray! No need to disinfect the flow!
But as a PUC spokesman argued, the initiative is misguided because it would put Bush’s name on a really excellent sewage plant. "The plant that they’re seeking to rename really offers extraordinary environmental benefits," he said. "Without it, raw sewage and storm water would flow into the bay and the oceans and the streets [and the buildings and the offices and the shoes and socks]. That’s not our understanding of what the authors of this initiative believe the current president has delivered." That’s true — surely they do not believe that Bush offers, for example, an activated-sludge process that combines sludge with "secondary scum" before mixing it with bacteria in anaerobic digesters, then dewatering the digested sludge into biosolids that are beneficially reused and safely discharging the effluent. Probably they think he just spews his crap right out into the environment. But, ironically, maybe the renaming really would be honoring Bush.
But if that’s true, local Republicans don’t seem to agree. Howard Epstein (left), chairman of what I was surprised to learn is a San Francisco Republican Party, has vowed to fight the measure with all means available to him. (Hint: he has no means available to him.) Patrick Dorinson, a former spokesman for the state GOP, told the Chronicle that the measure is "a horrible idea" that is childish and stupid. "It makes me ashamed to be a San Franciscan," said Dorinson, who according to the article lives in Sacramento.