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.
There are a few big holes in this system, though. For one thing, the government doesn’t even know how many businesses it is trying to regulate. That means an untold amount of pollution is going unchecked by the agencies paid to clean up the state’s waters.
There’s another startling hole: In recent years, officials at the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, a regional arm of a state agency, were not even looking at all the lab results it received from possible polluters.
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I don't understand the statement in the article which says that fines collected go into the U.S. Treasury. It's my recollection that, when the Regional(?)/State(?) WQD imposed large fines on San Diego circa 2000 because of the repeated sewer spills into Mission Bay, the City was allowed to use that money to install the necessary fixes/technology to reduce and eventually end the sewer spills.
That's a far more practical use of fines as there is a direct benefit to the community at large rather than $$$ flowing out of the region to the U.S. Treasury while those on whom fines have been imposed - be they a municipality or private business - having to come up with additional money to fix the problem the fines are imposed for. Fines plus the additional cost for pollution control can drive a small business out of business (as illustrated in Ry Rivard's Part Three of this series) - a loss to everyone concerned.
Or has there been newer requirements for the fine $$$ to go to the U.S. Treasury, making it impossible to use the fine money to address the pollution issue? Or have I mis-remembered what happened with the fines for the ongoing sewer spills in Mission Bay? Certainly, the City did address the problems at long last - I don't recall the last time Mission Bay, or a part of it, was closed due to a sewer spill.
This is the type of problem that causes a backlash against Environmental protection regulations and solutions. If I'm reading the report correctly the state of our Waste Water runoff - Clean Water protection is not well thought out or run.
My perception, just based on this article and searching the Water Control Board websites, is that:
1: A LOT of money was spent on the website, position papers, lobbyist, experts, consultants and staffers.
2: We have a system in place that penalize some polluters who self report and get levied very large fines and lawsuits, which put them out of business. They would not have had a problem if they had just kept quiet.
3: The majority of polluting businesses stay under the radar by not reporting.
A conclusion could be made that the law is causing businesses who try to do it right to close down and others, less concerned about the environment than their bottom line, to skirt/ignore/hide from the regulations and pollute at will.
As a concerned citizen, I really believe that we must do a better job of protecting the environment. Pollution of our water system is a major, worldwide concern. Thank you Randy for reporting... hopefully, changes can be made to implementation of control to better solve the problem, rather than a "drain the swamp" backlash reaction.
You can't stop the rain, you can't stop runoff. This is nothing but a payday for lawyers and overzealous government. What about all the diesel pollution that comes from the coastal rail that settles on every building and the land adjacent to the tracks ? Those trains are huge polluters ..
"Since the database of lab results is public, Gonzalez and others can now easily find companies that are polluting the state’s waters." It would be a service to the public for someone to publish these on a regular basis. At least a top ten list of the worst polluters.