urban runoff Archives - San Diego Coastkeeper

Why We Spend Our Saturdays Collecting Water Samples

Written by Meredith Meyers

wqm-saturdayWe have laws in place to limit industrial pollution and ensure that our water can support all of its uses, from swimming and fishing to hosting endangered wildlife. But without enforcement, these regulations cannot keep our water healthy. That’s where San Diego Coastkeeper comes in.

Urban runoff is the single biggest threat to water quality in San Diego. During the dry season, pollutants build up on hard surfaces like roads and parking lots. When it rains, stormwater pushes the accumulated pollutants into our storm drains. In San Diego, like most of California, our storm drains generally do not connect to wastewater treatment plants, so everything flows untreated into our waters. Pollutants created by industries, like metals and oils, are especially serious because they can be toxic in very low concentrations.

The Clean Water Act is a federal law that lays out the legal requirement for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of our water bodies. It is our most powerful tool for making sure San Diego’s water is healthy because it mandates that all states identify creeks, rivers and shorelines that are severely impaired by pollution.

Unfortunately, state and local regulators often don’t review water quality reports or conduct monitoring to make sure that industries are meeting Clean Water Act standards. San Diego Coastkeeper steps up to make sure that industries are doing everything they can to reduce pollution to our rivers and beaches. We review water quality reports, but that’s only the first step.

San Diego’s local government agencies have limited resources and they monitor infrequently, providing only a snapshot of water quality. To solve this problem, San Diego Coastkeeper also conducts our own monitoring to ensure compliance of clean water rules. We collect and analyze water samples from nine out of 11 watersheds in San Diego County every month. To ensure that our data meets the highest quality standards possible, Coastkeeper follows a rigorous quality assurance and control plan and standard operating procedures that have been approved by our state regulatory agencies. Sounds like a big job, right? That’s why we train over 100 volunteers each year and rely on them to help.

When we find polluting facilities, we use the Clean Water Act to bring them into compliance through enforcement actions. Our goal is to force industry operators to install and use best management practices that will meaningfully reduce pollutants in our waterways.

Want to see what kind of report card your local watershed is getting? Click here to explore a map of the most recent data we have for locations from Otay to Carlsbad.

Published in Urban Runoff

These Ten Locations Featuring Urban Runoff Pollution Will Shock You

Every year, the first major rain after the dry summer season gives us an opportunity to see the complicated problem of urban runoff and its impacts to our water quality. Urban runoff is water that flows over thehard scape surfaces we fill our cities with and drains directly into our waters. Stormwater, irrigation, and other water carry pollutants such as trash, oil, grease, pesticides, metals, bacteria and viruses, and toxic chemicals.

And it washes into our rivers, bays, lakes and ocean – untreated. 

To unwind this major water quality issue in San Diego would require turning back the clock to a time before we developed the county and rethinking how we paved, connected and changed the natural landscape. Still, today, we can do things to capture or slow down runoff before it hits our water or to prevent pollutants in the first place. In thinking about our upcoming stormy season, we tapped the brains of our water quality sampling volunteers, who collect water samples from nine of our eleven watersheds, to produce this list of the top ten places to watch urban runoff. In no scientific way, we ordered it from the most basic visual to the most compelling. We target different pollutants, diverse geographic locations, a varierty of infrastructure impacts and human health and use impacts.

Take a look. What do you see?

10. 2306 S Coast Highway: Open channel dumping onto the beach

This popular North County surf spot features an open channel carrying urban runoff from the adjacent parking lot and highway straight onto the beach. This location highlights how stormwater washes trash and dissolved pollutants from our developed places onto our beaches.

9. 300 Forward Street in La Jolla/Bird Rock: Drain at the street’s end 

This is the most straightforward illustration of a storm drain labeled “drains to the ocean,” where you can see the drain, the end of the street and the polluted water and its entrance to the Pacific. It simply illustrates the complicated infrastructure our region built that assumed pushing all water into our bays and ocean was the smartest way to keep our homes and businesses dry. 

8. Tourmaline Surf Park: Channelized stormwater outlet meets popular surf spot

This Pacific Beach surf spot is world-renowned for its waves, thankfully not for its urban runoff pollution. Risking intestional illnesses of all sorts, surfers get barreled here when its raining, unaware that a paved stormwater channel leads direct to sandy beach and into the water. Polluted runoff in this channel dumps directly in the surf zone.

urban runoff effects

7. Coast Boulevard Park: Cement pipe at ocean’s edge

The Waterkeeper movement started decades ago because fisherman saw large industrial sites using massive pipes to discard pollution directly into the Hudson River. This location symbolizes San Diego’s version of that as a cement pipe carries polluted water from the storm drain straight to the ocean. With the Hudson’s pollution, fishermen could pinpoint a specific corporation responsible for dumping pollution into the water. In San Diego, it’s impossible to target one contributor to this issue because every person adds to the problem as rain water runs over our homes, yards, driveways, workplaces and more, until it carries accumalted toxins to this singular end point. In this spot, a large algae plume from the excess nutrients (commonly caused by fertilizer) grows along the rocks at the end of the drain. You can even see the algae mat in this photo to the right.

6. Cottonwood creek at Moonlight State Beach:Storm Drain opening

We’re particularly aware of this polluted runoff example because Moonlight Beach is a favorite among locals, families and surfers. It’s one of those rare beaches where a community member organizes regular cleanups to keep it trash free. Surfers flock here. Families play here. But, it’s also a prime location to see an open channel storm drain flow right to the sandy beach. 

5. San Dieguito River Park Stormwater Treatment lagoon: Treatment wetland in action

Is it too late to reverse the effects of polluted runoff? Absolutely not, especially when we get creative.

We chose this location because it showcases a stormwater pipe that drops large amounts of urban runoff from the nearby development. The folks at San Dieguito Lagoon built a treatment wetland to clean the water before it gets to the actual lagoon. Here, you’ll see the pipe dumping water into the first pond. This first pond always has stagnant algae pond water, even when it’s not raining. But, the good news in this solution-oriented example, is that you can see the treatment ponds prevent the gross water from reaching the lagoon. 

This illustrates what many people refer to as stormwater capture, and it also depicts the role that nature plays in helping humans handle polluted runoff.

In their natural state, our inland creeks slow polluted water and force it through nature’s filter–offering a true eco-cleanse that can remove a lot of urban runoff pollution from water before it reaches the ocean. Sandly, by channelizing many of San Diego County’s creeks, we dehabilitated nature’s role by replacing vegetation with paved concrete to quickly move water away from our developed areas into our bays and ocean. 

4. Tecolote Shores, Mission Beach: Creek emptying into man-made bay

Mission Bay is gross–in this part of the bay. Here Tecolote Creek drains into Mission Bay, a tourism hot spot that we engineered when we rerouted the mouth of the San Diego River. Due to the high bacteria counts in this creek, this section of Mission Bay is often closed for swimming, even when it’s not raining. It’s particularly polluted here year round because this far-back section of Mission Bay does not have much current to mix the polluted water into the open ocean.

3. Dog Beach, Ocean Beach: The mouth of our region’s largest river

The polluted runoff in this iconic location begins collecting bacteria and toxins from as far inland as Julian–the eastern edges of this watershed. The amount and the intensity of polluted runoff flowing through the mouth of this river demonstrate the gravity of our top water quality problem. Here, you’re also likely to see a secondary issue in urban runoff–marine debris.

2. 3001 Harbor Drive: Trash

This bridge overlooks the outlet for Chollas Creek, one of San Diego County’s most polluted creeks. Flowing through the most densely populated urban areas in the county, Chollas Creek is wrought with trash, oil, grease, pesticides, metals, bacteria and viruses and toxic chemicals. What makes this secure the #2 spot on our list of ten is that you can see a trash boom designed to capture trash flowing from upstream into the bay. Particularly with the popularity of photos on the Internet, many people have seen images from around the globe featuring humans in boats surrounded by massive amounts of trash in the water. It’s easy to dismiss that in San Diego because we do have strong trash and recycling systems in place. But, if you find yourself here at the end of Chollas Creek, you may see that marine debris issues are much closer to home than they appear. 

1. Dairy Mart Road: Binational polluted runoff

During the winter, the Tijuana River overruns the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Ysidro, California. It then runs through the Tijuana River Estuary, one of the largest remaining Southern California coastal wetland habitats. This area is as important stopover on the Pacific Flyway bird migratory route. Unfortunately, the river carries large amounts of raw sewage as well as trash and sediment straight through the estuary and onto the beaches near Imperial Beach. During the winter, the river flows close nearby beaches. This one location perfectly illustrates that urban runoff is not “one person’s problem” or even “one country’s problem.” It highlights trash management issues as well as chemical water quality issues. This location slots into #1 because of the severity of the polluted runoff, the amount of the water flowing in this spot and the complicated matter of finding solutions to polluted runoff that starts in the U.S., flows through Mexico and completes it journey back in America.

Did we miss a location that you think should earn a spot on our top ten list of places to experience and learn about polluted runoff issues? Please, share with us your ideas in the comments below. 

 

 

Published in Urban Runoff

San Diego’s Waters Deserve Our Best

The following was written by Coastkeeper’s Jo Brooks and Everett Delano of our board of directors in response to a February 23 U-T San Diego editorial that criticized stormwater runoff requirements. This is the full text of their response, a partial response was published in the March 15, 2014 U-T.

A recent U-T San Diego editorial complained about the “ridiculousness” of stormwater runoff requirements adopted last May by the San Diego Regional Water QuTourmaline-storm-channelality Control Board. Alleging the rules would cost the city $4 billion over the next 17 years and cause a 1,000 percent increase in the (miniscule) stormwater portion of water bills, the U-T San Diego Editorial Board urged that somebody “needs to stop the madness.” While the editorial was filled with hyperbole and sought to entertain, particularly the line about having to put diapers on waterfowl, the problem of water pollution is no laughing matter.

A Region in Trouble

Our region’s waters are in bad shape. In 2013 alone, San Diego County had over 3,000 beach closure days. More than 160 water bodies in the county are listed as polluted and not meeting federal water quality standards for, among other things, bacteria, lead, nickel, pesticides, thallium and trash. An urban runoff report on the biological integrity of San Diego’s streams in 2011-2012 listed only 3% as in “very good” condition while 79% were listed as “poor” or “very poor.” San Diego Coastkeeper’s own monitoring in 2013 revealed “marginal” water quality for the Carlsbad, Sweetwater, Pueblo, and Otay watersheds, and “poor” water quality for the Tijuana watershed. San Diego’s waters, inextricably linked to our own health and to the health of our economy, need our protection and our action.

The editorial’s complaint that the standards would require the city to “scrub its urban runoff” is simply wrong. Yes, even under prior permits, washing a car in a driveway and allowing dirty wash water to escape to the street or a storm drain system is “strongly discouraged.” So are a host of other bad practices that flush water with chemicals and pollutants into storm drains, where it collects with other pollutants that feed into San Diego’s streams, beaches, lagoons, bays, and eventually the ocean. While there are no permit requirements to “scrub runoff,” there are appropriate requirements to adopt “maximum extent practicable” levels of protection of San Diego’s precious water bodies.

Fishable, Swimmable & Drinkable

As members of San Diego Coastkeeper’s board of directors, we take seriously the federal Clean Water Act’s mandates of fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters.   As San Diegans, we should all ask ourselves – what is it worth to be able to eat fish from our waters, recreate in our bays and ocean, and drink water without fear of illness? There can be little doubt but that clean water is important to all. A 2004 study conducted by the University of Southern California and UCLA estimates that for every dollar spent on compliance with stormwater requirements, two to three dollars in benefits will result, including benefits to tourism, property values, public health, and public recreation.

A Questionable Price Tag

In reality, the $4 billion 17-year price tag listed in the editorial is suspect – like many things, there are often less expensive ways to address the same objective. Certainly the permit contains no requirement to spend any particular amount of money. But some of the very things the editorial complains about, like improving our irrigation systems and capturing stormwater for reuse, have tremendous potential to save both money and water in the long run, particularly when we are faced with a drought and the inevitably increasing costs associated with a reliable water supply for a growing population. Coastkeeper participates in the permit’s stakeholder process and supports constructive approaches to meeting permit requirements at reasonable cost.

It is also important to remember that visitors to San Diego spend nearly $8.4 billion annually, with an economic impact of over $18.7 billion generated for our regional economy. These visitors, just like residents and businesses, depend on healthy beaches and bays. Our healthy economy, like our public health, depends on healthy San Diego water bodies.

The U-T editorial correctly notes that our antiquated sewage-processing facility, the country’s last large municipal treatment plant not to meet basic secondary-treatment standards, requires significant upgrades. But we cannot afford to pollute our region’s water bodies either through inadequate sewage treatment or through polluted urban runoff.

The editorial derides the Regional Water Board’s permit as “environmental extremism.” In fact, it implements obligations set forth in the very mainstream 40-year-old federal Clean Water Act. We think of it more as an appropriate, measured step to address one of our region’s greatest assets. Our public health, our ecological health, and our financial well-being deserve nothing less.

What’s A Little Rain When You Have A Mystery to Solve?

Despite the stormy Friday morning weather, my water quality partner and I were excited to get to the bottom of a still unsolved mystery—the sources of urban runoff. Because rain is actually Day In The Life of a Water Monitorhelpful in solving this mystery (due to the fact that you can often follow runoff back to the source), we welcomed the unusually intense weather.

When we arrived, the group divided the test area into mini-watersheds and we were assigned to collect water samples along the south bound of Chollas Creek. While the weather was helpful for data, it presented its own challenges.  The collection efforts were marked by several strong gusts that pushed and pulled at me, at times nearly causing me to almost lose my balance. At another point I couldn’t see where I was going because my hair was flying in every direction, enveloping my entire face.

With dogged determination, we set out to get all the water samples we needed. Powering through the chaotic weather, climbing fences and walking through a windy swirl of muddy hills, steep pathways and graffiti-ed bridge underpasses, we were going to get this done!

Beside the waterway the evidence of some of the potential perpetrators of the pollution lay taunting us. Spray paint bottles were scattered lifelessly, as were many plastic cups and paper plates. What really captured my attention was a toilet seat cover lodged mid-creek. I still wonder how that ended up there—lots of explanations exist, but, in the end, there is no valid justification. It is amazing what discoveries can be found along the creek.

More challenges to our collection efforts continued to impact our efforts—it was very challenging to keep our paperwork dry! We had other difficulties when the readings on our instrument took longer than expected due to the many particles in the water.  An eyeball analysis of the samples we collected made it clear that the water was a far cry from clean and crystal clear.

While the rain and everything its presence brought into Chollas Creek  damped (pun intended) our efforts, this Southern Californian was happy to see at least a little of the much-needed rain we have craved for so long.

This whole experience was a wonderful adventure.  Despite my thorough soaking and muddy boots, I felt accomplished. Accomplished enough to say that I will certainly do it again!

Are you interested in learning more about what happens to those samples and how they help us learn actionable information? Check out this blog post. Want to have your own happy adventure? Check out our volunteer opportunities.

Published in Urban Runoff

Weather Doesn’t Dampen Resolve to Get Answers

While most of you were trying to stay dry and cozy during this past storm, several intrepid volunteers offered to brave the elements and help us figure out the source of urban runoff pollutants.

Urban runoff is the biggest threat to water quality Testing Water Samplesin San Diego County, and we know that the problem gets worse when it rains. Rain washes pollutants from our urban environment and into our streams. What is unknown, however, is from where exactly these pollutants come. That sounds like a perfect job for San Diego Coastkeeper and its amazing volunteer base.

We divided up the Pueblo Watershed, the watershed for Chollas Creek, into sub-drainage basins. These are the colored areas displayed on the map. By analyzing the water coming out of these mini watersheds, we can hopefully determine the worst offenders for urban runoff. Once gathered, we will model this data to determine which of these basins has the highest pollutant concentrations, allowing us to better target our outreach and education efforts on the areas that disproportionately contribute to our urban runoff problem.   

Sampling these areas was no small task, as we had to sample during the rain to catch the pollutants. We are deeply grateful to our amazing volunteers who ventured into the storm to conduct this sampling.  They fought rain, wind, and traffic to help us collect this dataset. Hector Valtierra even sampled twice, spending seven soggy hours collecting data. Thank you, Hector!

It will take us a few weeks to analyze the data, but it looks interesting so far. There was a ton of bacteria in the water and nutrient levels look super high also. Trash was everywhere. We even unfortunately found a floating chihuahua. We’ll keep you updated as we work the data..

We thank the County Board of Supervisors and Union Bank for funding to support this project. In addition our thanks to Supervisor Greg Cox’s office for its involvement in getting this project started.

Interested in a volunteer’s perspective? Check out what Lynna Moy has to say about the day.

Published in Urban Runoff

Saving Our Waters and Our Wallets.

When I look at this photo, I see a wave I would normally kill to ride- with the exception of the surrounding wall of trash. I instantly visualize an ocean littered with garbage, paddling through oil and debris during my sunset surf. The amazing feeling I normally get just wouldn’t be the same if I had to dodge water bottles and was paranoid about swallowing the contaminated water.

Trash surrounds us everywhere we go on land. Between all the street litter, garbage days, overflowing trash cans and street sweeping, isn’t the water the one place we can get away from it all?

It is, but at a cost. According to the L.A. Times, San Diego spends close to $14 million annually on coastal cleanup efforts. Can’t you think of about 14 million ways this money could be used better? Yes, I want my waters to be clean so I can swim, surf and snorkel, but why do we have to spend so much money cleaning them up when we can simply prevent the problem in the first place?

One of the biggest inhibitors to keeping our waters clean is urban runoff. This is the water that runs through populated, man-made areas and picks up oil, grease, pesticides, metals and other toxic chemicals as it trickles directly into our water bodies. This not only makes our waters gross, but also harms the marine wildlife.

To do its part in cleaning up the community, San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter get together and host regular beach cleanups throughout the county. In 2012, 4,308 volunteers removed almost 8,000 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches. And still residents pay for regular trash control from the city. Houston, we have a serious problem.

As a self-proclaimed water-lover (as I imagine most San Diegans are), I make a point to be aware of how my actions on land effect the waters I treasure and I think others should do the same. To do your part in keeping our ocean, bay and streams pollution-free, please check out some pollution prevention tips. We may live mostly on land, but we need the sea. I can’t imagine a life of polluted waters and trash littered barrels, and I will do whatever it takes to keep that photo from becoming a reality in San Diego.

Published in Marine Debris

News from Noah: Coastkeeper’s Custom Autosampler Is Shaping Up

The autosampler is slowly, but surely, progressing. After securing the necessary money, and finding and purchasing parts, I have taken the first few steps towards completing the autosampler. To remind everyone, this Noah_Pumpautosampler will allow us to use the autosampler to monitor urban runoff during rains, as it happens (without having our volunteers stand in the rain for hours).

Currently, I am working on refining my home-built peristaltic pump. Peristaltic pumps use compression to push water. Skateboard wheels will compress a plastic tube to push water from the creek and into the sample bottles.

The pump frame has been built, and the skateboard wheels have been installed. The wheels, along with some tubing, will be doing the heavy lifting of the water. Once the pump is finished, and pumping, the next step will be to set up the valve array, which will distribute the samples into their respective containers.

From here, I expect the pace to accelerate, as the pump will probably be the part that I need to fiddle with the most. After the valve array, the final step will involve powering and connecting all of the parts into a computer controlled system. I am planning on using two Arduino microprocessers working in conjunction as the brains of the system.

While working on the autosampler, I have learned a great deal about prototyping and design. In its current state, the autosampler is not much more than a prototype. I was surprised about all the fiddling and adjusting needs to happen in order to make this run perfectly. This project has been an enlightening experience: there are hundreds of things that will go wrong. But I will fix all of them.

Working on the autosampler in general, and the pump specifically, has given me the chance to explore new horizons. I have a project where I have creative freedom, will have an impact, and combines an appealing career path, robotics, and my work here at Coastkeeper. It’s a nice balance to my school work. I appreciate the hands on experience that I have gotten with engineering and design, something I probably would not have without Coastkeeper’s help.

The currently anticipated deployment date is in late August, early September. Ish. That said, when I was first talking about this project, I thought I could have it out by March. We’ll have to wait and see.

Published in Urban Runoff

The Stormwater “Safe Harbor” Explained

This blog was published May 2, 2013. Click here for more up-to-date information on Safe Harbor laws in San Diego.

The Clean Water Act is the primary tool we use to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters.  At its heart, the Clean Water Act focuses on the quality of our waters, and it allows states to issue permits allowing people to add pollution into our waters, but only in certain circumstances.  The Clean Water Act’s  bottom line is this—we can’t issue a permit if it would allow pollution that would make that water so dirty that it interferes with the water’s “beneficial uses” like swimming, fishing, or habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Even if the individual pollution permit would not alone cause the water quality problem, if it contributes to a water quality problem, that’s not allowed.

In order to make sure we are issuing water pollution permits that ultimately protect our waters, we have to look at the health of the waters.  And water pollution permits contain a provision that basically says, “when you add pollution to the waters, you cannot cause or contribute to a water quality problem in the water body you are adding pollution to.”  Sounds reasonable, right?

Apparently for San Diego County and our local municipalities, prohibiting them from contributing to existing pollution problems or creating new ones is asking too much. The county and our local cities have asked our Regional Water Quality Control board for a “safe harbor” excusing them from being accountable for local water quality, even though our storm sewer systems are the primary cause of most of our local pollution problems.

Why would they ask for this?  According to San Diego County Counsel James O’Day, the county needs protection from environmental groups who would “hold the county hostage” by bringing lawsuits against them. Even the City of San Diego’s estmeed Mayor Filner asked the Regional Board to provide “protection” for the City against environmental protection law suits. Ironic, since last weekend San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez thanked the environmental groups that sued the City of San Diego on sewage issues because it helped move the city forward toward creating a local, secure, reliable, safe water supply.

In response to pleas by lawyers and politicians, the Regional Board added a “safe harbor” or “alternative compliance option” to the stormwater permit.  This “alternative compliance” provision protects cities or the county from being held accountable for pollution that causes or contributes to water quality problems, as long as they have done some modeling that shows that they might not cause or contribute to water quality problems if they do certain things, and then they plan to do those things.  They get this “protection” from the moment their plan is approved, and it continues indefinitely–even if the pollution actually causes or contributes to a water quality problem–as long as they keep trying to do better.

This flies in the face of the very heart of the Clean Water Act–focusing on the health of our waters and not allowing pollution that would cause or contribute to water quality problems.  At the Regional Board hearing on April 10 and 11, I compared this new safe harbor provision to mud on a cake.  The heart of our stormwater permit–the cake–is still good, and we’ve all worked very hard to make it together.  But this safe harbor is mud that basically ruins the permit for us.  Take this safe harbor away, and we like the new stormwater permit.

On May 8, the Regional Board will decide whether or not to leave the safe harbor provision in the permit.  Check back soon to see if they left mud on the cake!

Cleaning Up Our La Jolla Storm Drains

A few years ago, the city spent millions on building the City of San Diego Coastal Low Flow Diversion Program. However, the system only works if the City properly maintains it.

During the dry season, low flow street runoff is supposed to be diverted into the sewer system, rather than the storm drains. This keeps what could be polluted water off of our beaches and out of our oceans.

When these drains are clogged, the runoff instead goes straight into the stormwater drains, rather than the sewer. And guess where it ends up.

Yep, the ocean.

A concerned La Jolla citizen emailed us to let us know about a problem with some of these drains. They were almost completely clogged with sand, mud and even some plants. He told us that he saw runoff running onto the beach nearly every morning, and sent pictures showing how bad the problem was.

What’s the point of spending millions of dollars on a system that doesn’t work as planned due to lack of maintenence?

We informed the San Diego Transportation and Stormwater Department, and they quickly sent a crew out to clean up the mess. They were appreciative that the issue was brought to their attention. It’s nice to see a swift response from a government agency.

Issues like this can only be cleared up with cooperation from San Diegans and appropriate government agencies. It’s Coastkeeper’s job to make sure we connect problems with problem solvers, and in this case you can see the result. Pictures show both the before clogged drains, and the after cleared drains.

If this La Jolla resident had never informed us of this issue, runoff could’ve been flowing onto our beaches and entering our oceans for a very long time. Instead, he sent us a quick email, and, at least in this spot, the beaches will remain runoff free.

If you ever see any sort of issue you believe needs addressing, please contact Coastkeeper through our Report Pollution Hotline.

Below, you can see the clogged drains before Coastkeeper was alerted to the problem:

before1

before3

And here, you can see the drains are completely clear of crud after we were told about the issue:

after1

after3

Published in Urban Runoff

MS4: How Can You Get Involved After It’s Adopted?

water-monitoring-1-sThis post is the third in a series regarding the San Diego Regional Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permitfor the San Diego region.

In this third and final entry in our series on the San Diego Regional Municipal Separate
Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit (http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/sandiego/water_issues/
programs/stormwater/index.shtml), we will cover how you, the public, can get involved after the
MS4 permit is adopted. In previous posts, you have gotten a quick introduction to the permitting
process and how you can help develop the permit. It is important to know, however, that you
can continue to shape the way this MS4 permit works after the Regional Water Quality Control
Board adopts it.
The way the current draft is written, the organizations that enroll under it (the ones
running big storm drain systems) have to develop Water Quality Improvement Plans within the
first year of enrollment. These plans identify water quality “priorities,” how the priorities will
be addressed, and timelines to improvement. The important part is that these plans are subject
to a 30- or 60-day public review and comment period just like the MS4 permit itself. This
is arguably the MOST IMPORTANT part of the permit because the priorities are where the
cities and counties will be focusing most of their time and resources, while other water quality
problems have to wait. You need to be a part of this process to ensure that your voice is heard
about water quality problems in your community.
Another important way to get involved is to report violations of the permit when you
see them in your neighborhood. It is important that you know what part of the permit is being
violated though, so when you call the municipalities hotline, they know they are getting usable
information. This is why participation in the permitting process is so important (as we outlined
in the previous entries), so that you have a working understanding of the permit. That way, when
someone is emptying their pool right into the street, and subsequently down a storm drain, you
know whether that is prohibited (As a note: it might be prohibited, but it depends).
If you don’t feel comfortable with working alone, or just prefer working with
some more direction, you can also partner with us in water quality monitoring (http://
localhost/sdcoastkeeper/quick-links/water-monitoring.html) events. In the permit the cities
and counties have to work to identify the sources of previously unidentified pollution. We are
currently talking with municipalities to find ways to provide them our monitoring information
and reduce their costs. If this cooperative program is green-lighted, you could work to directly
hold polluters responsible for their actions and make San Diego’s waters that much cleaner.
If you haven’t already signed up for email updates about water quality issues in the
San Diego region, do so here (http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/resources/email_subscriptions/
reg9_subscribe.shtml).

In this third and final entry in our series on the San Diego Regional Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, we will cover how you, the public, can get involved after the MS4 permit is adopted. In previous posts, you have gotten a quick introduction to the permitting process and how you can help develop the permit. It is important to know, however, that you can continue to shape the way this MS4 permit works after the Regional Water Quality Control Board adopts it.

The way the current draft is written, the organizations that enroll under it (the ones running big storm drain systems) have to develop Water Quality Improvement Plans within the first year of enrollment. These plans identify water quality “priorities,” how the priorities will be addressed, and timelines to improvement. The important part is that these plans are subjectto a 30- or 60-day public review and comment period just like the MS4 permit itself. This is arguably the MOST IMPORTANT part of the permit because the priorities are where the cities and counties will be focusing most of their time and resources, while other water quality problems have to wait. You need to be a part of this process to ensure that your voice is heard about water quality problems in your community.

Another important way to get involved is to report violations of the permit when you see them in your neighborhood. It is important that you know what part of the permit is being violated though, so when you call the municipalities hotline, they know they are getting usable information. This is why participation in the permitting process is so important (as we outlined in the previous entries), so that you have a working understanding of the permit. That way, when someone is emptying their pool right into the street, and subsequently down a storm drain, you know whether that is prohibited. (As a note: it might be prohibited, but it depends.)

If you don’t feel comfortable with working alone, or just prefer working with some more direction, you can also partner with us in water quality monitoring events. In the permit the cities and counties have to work to identify the sources of previously unidentified pollution. We are currently talking with municipalities to find ways to provide them our monitoring information and reduce their costs. If this cooperative program is green-lighted, you could work to directly hold polluters responsible for their actions and make San Diego’s waters that much cleaner.

If you haven’t already signed up for email updates about water quality issues in the San Diego region, do so here.

Published in Sick of Sewage