Pollution controls weakened by water agency

"This amendment says that trying is enough — it gives an 'A' for effort."

San Diego storm drain
  • San Diego storm drain
  • sewerhistory.org

Local water-quality activists are protesting what they say is a weakening of pollution controls on water runoff in storm drains by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Last month, the board added a "safe harbor" amendment to municipal stormwater permits covering San Diego County, its 18 cities, the port and airport districts, and portions of Orange and Riverside counties. The amendment, according to water-quality watchdog San Diego Coastkeeper, "protects permit holders from accountability for water quality pollution, as long as they have a plan to improve water quality."

"This amendment says that trying is enough — it gives an 'A' for effort," a release quotes Matt O'Malley, a “waterkeeper” with the organization. "The Regional Board’s action last month was an unfortunate step backwards in efforts to improve water quality."

Now, Coastkeeper and the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation have filed a petition with the California State Water Resources Control Board, asking state authorities to step in and overturn what they say is an illegal policy allowing municipalities to continue polluting.

"We don’t want to give water polluters a pass just for saying they will prevent pollution from reaching San Diego’s waters — we want to reward actual results," adds foundation attorney Livia Borak. "Our petition to the state board asks the governing agency to overturn this illogical and unlawful provision."

According to the groups, pollution from runoff is one of the biggest contributors to poor water quality in San Diego, responsible for beach closures following heavy rains and poor health ratings for local streams and other water bodies.

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