Helping Local Businesses Protect Our Precious Waters

A storm drain outlet to Mission Bay. Photo by Jackie Loza

From time to time I’m asked to speak at one event or another on issues related to water quality or water supply and I almost always seize those opportunities to educate and inform on Coastkeeper’s positions and ongoing work. Recently Coastkeeper agreed to co-sponsor a workshop on the statewide industrial stormwater permit and compliance. And, after seeing how crucial this month’s Industrial General Permit Awareness Training was for industry leaders failing to comply with pollution regulations, consider this blog post a standing offer to dust off my slide presentation for any other leaders who will listen.

urban-runoff1On February 2, I joined experts from The Industrial Environmental Association and the State and Regional Water Boards to educate industry leaders on how to meet the requirements of the statewide industrial stormwater permit and do their part to keep our waters healthy. The day’s workshop demonstrated the profound need for further efforts to inform industries about the legal requirements that aim to protect our waters.

For instance, most small- and medium-sized businesses covered by the industrial stormwater general permit don’t know enough about the permit’s water protection mandates. In fact, California State University at San Marcos conducted a survey that found that 100 percent of small businesses (sized 0-25 employees) were “not adequately informed” about the permit. Unfortunately, these small businesses have an incredibly significant impact on the quality and health of our waters.

Furthermore, the State Water Board explained that less than half of all facilities that have filed for coverage under the permit are complying with its monitoring and reporting requirements. As many as half of all facilities that discharge metals into our waters are likely to be required to undergo a more rigorous compliance process since their discharges are of such poor quality. This news comes after years of noncompliance and continued polluting by many different industrial sectors throughout San Diego County.

While the day did not bring good news, it was important to learn how truly necessary these workshops and trainings are in order to educate industry leaders and consultants about the role they must play in keeping pollution out of our water. We were grateful to partner with Biocom and The Industrial Environmental Association to make February’s event possible and look to the future with renewed motivation to continue our work protecting and restoring San Diego’s water.