Lawsuit Challenges Regulation of Industrial Pollution to San Francisco Bay, State Waters

May 14, 2014

Baykeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance sue for better protection for the Bay

Jason Flanders 916-202-3018

California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), a coalition of 12 Waterkeeper organizations including San Francisco Baykeeper, has filed a lawsuit against the State Water Board for failing to adopt a statewide Industrial Stormwater Permit that protects San Francisco Bay, and waterways throughout the state, from contaminated storm water running off industrial facilities. The statewide permit is a set of standards almost all California industrial facilities are required to meet.

San Francisco Bay—and California’s beaches, coastal areas, and rivers—are plagued by industrial pollution from landfills, oil refineries, metal recycling facilities, and other industrial facilities. Polluted runoff from industrial facilities can contain metals such as lead, zinc, copper, and other toxic substances. Over 1,300 Bay Area industrial facilities are regulated under the statewide permit, and Baykeeper has identified dozens that are violating state water quality limits set to protect the environment and public health. In addition, Baykeeper and regulatory agencies have identified an increase in unpermitted rogue facilities that fail to obtain the proper permits for water quality, air emissions, or land use.

“San Francisco Bay is plagued by pollutants such as copper, lead, zinc, arsenic and trash; industrial facilities such as scrap metal yards, waste transfer stations, and auto-dismantlers are a significant source,” said Jason Flanders, Baykeeper Program Director. “The State Water Board is required to adopt a permit that protects California communities and watersheds from highly toxic pollutants.”

On April 1, 2014 the State Water Board concluded a multi-year process to update and adopt a new Industrial Stormwater Permit. However, despite years of legal and technical analysis and advocacy by California Coastkeeper Alliance, San Francisco Baykeeper, Los Angeles Waterkeeper and other partner groups, many aspects of the permit reflect a step backward from the 1997 Permit.  The new permit does not meet require monitoring to determine compliance with water quality standards, and does not incorporate pollution limits for severely degraded waterways as required by the Clean Water Act. CCKA’s lawsuit will require the state agency to implement the Clean Water Act, will hold polluters responsible and will prompt meaningful on-the-ground actions to reduce pollution and restore California’s waterbodies that are unsafe for swimming, drinking, and fishing. 

“This is the time when the State Water Board should be requiring closer oversight and increased pollution controls, not weakening protections,” said Sara Aminzadeh, Executive Director for California Coastkeeper Alliance. “We are disappointed that this permit, which is long overdue, fails to push industry forward into a cleaner and more sustainable water future.”

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