City slack on preventing sediment pollution

Robust construction activity lacks assertive governance

Photo from May 2015 complaint at Leroy Street in Point Loma
  • Photo from May 2015 complaint at Leroy Street in Point Loma

The City of San Diego hopes to settle a $4.6 million complaint from the regional water board for allowing construction companies to bypass sediment-control measures at Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, Tijuana River Estuary, and San Diego Bay.

On August 16, San Diego's assistant chief operating officer Stacey LoMedico signed a waiver form that foregoes the 90-day hearing in order to enter into settlement discussions. The terms and amount of the fine that San Diego will pay will be set during those discussions.

According to the complaint, beginning in October 2010, city investigators and officials allowed construction companies to ignore sediment-control requirements, resulting in destruction of wildlife habitats and significant sediment pollution.

Over the course of the five years, the San Diego Regional Water Control Board had issued several notices detailing violations at construction sites citywide. During that time, according to a March 2015 letter from Development Services director Robert Vacchi, city officials issued seven stop-work orders to construction companies that violated the sediment-control practices and hired ten inspectors to help monitor the sites.

"Although the Regional Board has issued two Notices of Violation to the City approximately one year apart, the city has and continues to make great improvements in its processes to ensure compliance," read Vacchi's 2015 letter. "The City of San Diego is a very large agency and has an enormous amount of construction activity currently ongoing within its jurisdiction."

In addition, the city took corrective action against a construction company working on replacing portions of the sidewalk in Point Loma. In May 2015 a resident contacted the water board with complaints of construction sediment running into stormwater drains.

According to a subsequent letter from a city engineer, the city issued a stop-work order and had warned the company that they could be blacklisted from city projects if corrective action was not taken.

Results, however, didn't come quick enough. On July 18, 2016, the regional water board issued a $4.6 million fine for the violations.

Details of the settlement and the actual amount of the fine will be determined in coming months.

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Comments

I have no idea what the numbers are, but it seems reasonable that there was sedimentary runoff before everything was covered in asphalt and concrete. Zero should not be the goal, the beaches need something.

A $4.6 MILLION fine for what is described as a sidewalk repair? Must have been something a little more, and being too busy didn't seem to be what the Regional Water Board wanted to hear from the City of San Diego..

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