by Linda Mumma

STOCKTON (CBS13) — The city of Stockton is working to fix a broken bubbling system that has caused an overgrowth of harmful algae along the Stockton waterfront.

People who work near the deepwater channel believe the green sludge is preventing others from playing on the water.

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Patti Brennan is the Director of the California Delta Chambers and Visitor’s Bureau. She said she moved to Stockton four years ago from the Bay Area because she was attracted to the beauty of the Stockton waterfront.

“It is one of the best marinas, I believe, in the state of California,” Brennan said.

She said it’s wide, flat and protected, which makes it the perfect place to host youth programs and large downtown events.

“The city has a wonderful launch down there with the ability for you to park your boat to go to the Bob Hope Theater,” she said. “There’s also sailing, rowing, kayaking, and water-biking.”

Marina managers just started offering equipment rentals a few months ago, but today they’re stuck on the docks because Brennan said no one wants to go near the green water.

“I know of a boat show that was here at the sailing club that would have liked to go into town and to that Marina and couldn’t go with their antique boats because of the algae,” she said. “That’s basically a hundred dollars per person in meals, movies, at shows, at the bars, restaurants, and possibly the hotels.”

This is the problem: a harmful algae bloom called Cyanobacteria. It prompted the California State Water Resources Control Board to warn people and pets to steer clear of the water.

“People don’t want to go down to where they think they’re going to get sick,” said Brennan.

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Boaters blame the city for contributing to the problem. They told CBS13 an aeration system that used to circulate the water broke several months ago; causing the algae to grow out of control.

On Tuesday, city crews began maintenance work on a pair of air compressors that push air through a series of pipes underneath the water.

By the afternoon – two of the seven broken bubblers were working and the company that installed the system back in 2006, said it plans to put divers in the water Thursday morning to make further repairs.

It’s a fix Brennan argued should’ve happened a long time ago.

“It’s costing the city not having it operational, clean and in use,” she said. “We’re entering the last full month of summer and with the heat and ability to go to the waterfront, it has to be done.”

In the meantime, the California State Water Resources Control Board said there is no way to tell if an algal bloom is toxic just by looking at it. The agency said sometimes the bloom is easily visible, forming a “scum” or discoloration on the water surface. Other times, it is less visible, floating beneath the surface on the bottom of a water body. The board said blooms can appear green, blue, yellow, red or brown.

It’s asking people who plan to spend time on the water to practice safe water habits.

The board recommends:

  • Heeding all instructions on posted advisories if present
  • Avoiding algae and scum in the water and on shore
  • Keeping an eye on children and pets (dogs)
  • If you think a HAB (harmful algal bloom) is present, do not let pets and other animals go into or drink the water, or eat scum and algal accumulations on the shore
  • Don’t drink the water or use it for cooking
  • Wash yourself, your family, and your pets with clean water after water play
  • If you catch fish, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking
  • Avoid eating shellfish if you think a HAB is present
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The city said it could take crews several days to fix the aeration system on the Stockton Waterfront.