The system for enforcing federal and state clean-water standards is in such disarray that outside environmental groups have become a sort of private police force. They’ve begun a crackdown on companies that are fouling up creeks and coasts, and they are using the government’s own records to do the government’s job for it.
Since 2014, the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper have filed or threatened to file at least 43 lawsuits against area companies for violating clean water laws, according to state records. The groups are mostly targeting light industrial sites, particularly scrapyards.
For years, thousands of businesses across the state have spent thousands of dollars testing water that runs off their sites after it rains. They send those lab results to the State Water Board. If the results show there’s too much pollution, the state is supposed to force polluters to clean up and punish them if they don’t.