July 14 – Regional Board Denies Request to Delay Bay Sediment Cleanup

Decision affirms the need to move the cleanup process forward

SAN DIEGO, CA – July 14, 2010– Today the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) reaffirmed the need to move forward with the process to clean up contaminated sediment in San Diego Bay. The decision comes nearly twenty years after the Regional Board first considered the issue.

David King, the Regional Board chairman and San Diego Bay sediment cleanup hearing officer, denied a request from Regional Board staff and potentially responsible parties to extend the discovery schedule in the hearing process, which could have slowed progress. Chairman King also ended a two-year mediation to set cleanup levels and outline the cleanup schedule.

Chairman King characterized the request as a delay tactic, noting that the potentially responsible parties have had months to act but have not used the time to conduct meaningful discovery on issues related to the cleanup.  The Chairman also reprimanded his own staff for not moving forward with the environmental review process in a timely manner, calling it “criminal negligence to be hamstrung by the dischargers.”

Environmental and community members have been advocating for the bay cleanup for decades and applaud Chairman King’s decision to move ahead with the environmental review process.

“We share Chairman King’s obvious frustration with the delay,” said Gabriel Solmer, legal director for San Diego Coastkeeper. “We’re gratified that he finally said ‘no more’ to the mediation, ending a process that we found dysfunctional and far from transparent.”

San Diego Coastkeeper, the region’s leading environmental nonprofit protecting inland and coastal waters, will continue to participate in the formal process to adopt a Cleanup and Abatement Order for the contaminated bay sediments. The process will culminate with a Regional Board hearing and vote, likely in early 2011.

“If what is past is prologue, we still have a long road before the toxic sediment is removed,” said Solmer, “but we commend Chairman King for recognizing the delay and moving one step closer toward a clean and healthy bay.”

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Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit us online at localhost/sdcoastkeeper.