Would the E.W. Blom Sewage Plant by Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?

Unnatural disasters tend to make people ask questions. Inquiring minds and all that.

Who, for example, was Mr. Love after whom the canal was named? Or Mr. Valdez in the Exxon Valdez ? Or Ms. Three Mile in Three Mile Island?

And, more locally, who is this fellow E.W. Blom, namesake of the E.W. Blom Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, and what does he have to say about the big blowout that is giving water pollution a bad name?

Second things first. Edgar W. Blom is unavailable for comment, having died in 1987 at age 85. Sorry.

He worked for the city of San Diego from 1950 to 1963. He was the assistant city manager who cobbled together the metropolitan sewer district from warring agencies.

"Ed Blom was the epitome of what public service is all about," said John Lockwood, retired city manager, now serving as state director of general services.

Blom was the whip-cracker on civic and private projects: roads, buildings, the Salk Institute, the early phases of UCSD, the sewage plant (completed in 1963).

"You only got your project (in the budget) if he approved it," Lockwood said. "He was responsible for making sure it got built on time and within budget."

In 1986 Lockwood called his old friend and offered him his pick of public edifices to have his name attached to.

Blom didn't hesitate: he picked the sewage plant, his last project, his baby. The renaming deed was done by the City Council. It seemed like a good choice at the time.

It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when the Point Loma plant was the toast of sewage aficionados.

Engineers stood in awe. George Story, then a reporter for The San Diego Union, wrote stories for out-of-town papers about San Diego's sewage-treatment miracle.

And locals were happy that Mission Bay was no longer a dumping spot and skiers no longer gave off brown wakes, Story said. All was happiness, discharge-wise.

But now the story is different: the big pipe at the E.W. Blom plant is broken like a cheap Christmas toy and millions of gallons are being pumped close to shore.

If there's a moral about the fall from grace of the E.W. Blom plant, maybe it comes from the Romans, who told us that all fame is ephemeral.

Modern translation: Yesterday's engineering marvel is today's pile of coliform bacteria.

Seen Through The Grapevine

Nails and names.

* Robin Aarnio, owner of Salon Simpatico, a nail and skin care parlor that just opened in Hillcrest, figured the place need a chi-chi interior.

So a painter was hired to do a grapevine motif around the upper wall and ceiling moldings.

Now the painter's finished and Aarnio has found he secreted a few images in the grapevines: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, spiders, a lizard and cannabis leaves.

* John Cross, now peddling his Hot Body Intl. videos after running afoul of the San Diego vice squad, has caught the fancy of (who else?) Geraldo Rivera.

Geraldo, Cross and 15 of Cross' female artisans filmed a segment this week. To be shown in mid-March.

* Postscript to Wednesday item: Lynn Schenk did disclose her income tax returns in her 1984 supervisorial campaign versus Susan Golding, despite assertions to the contrary in a Golding campaign brochure.

"I was allowed to look at all of the financial records of Schenk and her husband, right down to their checkbooks," said a reporter who covered the race.

Schenk, now running for Congress, vows similar disclosure this year.

* Muhammad Ali will officiate at tonight's weigh-in for Terry Norris and Carl Daniels.

* Bob Simmons is out of the 3rd District supervisor's race. He's endorsed Encinitas Councilwoman Pam Slater.

* The FBI calls four bank robberies in Vista and Oceanside the "Yoko Ono" series because the female bandit resembles Ms. Ono.

Candidate Has Words for Them

James Turner, 69, the retired Navy commander running for mayor of San Diego, is providing reading lists.

For reporters, he suggests books by George Will, William Manchester, Harry Truman and Leon Jaworski.

For Councilman Ron Roberts, trying to sharpen his locution, he recommends Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet."

And for the front-running Supervisor Susan Golding, whose own campaign says she suffers from public skepticism about her motives, Turner suggests "Blind Ambition" by John Dean.

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