Los Angeles Regional Board: Fix Our Stormwater Problem!

This Friday, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board will decide whether to clean up Los Angeles’s urban runoff problem, or to continue to let polluters use our waterways as their dumping grounds.

What would you rather have?


Courtesy of Heal the Bay

Or this?

Courtesy of Heal the Bay

For almost nine years, dischargers have had a free pass to pollute; they’ve been shielded from enforcement because of a “safe harbor” in the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit. The Regional Board decided to include a safe harbor to give polluters time to develop Watershed Management Plans without having to fear enforcement for failing to meet water quality standards. These Plans should include rigorous schedules and detail projects that Permittees must build and maintain so that our waterways can be enjoyed by all, instead of being a source of illness for people and critters.

Stormwater is the number one source of surface water pollution in the Region.

It’s time to end the safe harbors. Nine years is more than enough time to plan to fix our stormwater pollution problem. It’s time to act, and for consequences for inaction. The safe harbors delay the multi benefits of green stormwater projects and prolong the harm of dirty water. 

Heal the Bay’s analysis of the implementation of Permittees’ Plans found that polluters have not been taking project development seriously; the percentage of necessary projects implemented over nearly a decade is in the single digits, and the State Board found that the Plans themselves are deeply flawed. Even though most of the plans analyzed by Heal the Bay showed Permittees missed deadlines, not one of them lost their protection under the safe harbors. Not one; even though the current permit states that should happen.

Angelenos have shown that clean water is a high priority to them. They demonstrated this when they voted overwhelmingly to pay for it themselves by passing Measure W. If the Regional Board approves yet another MS4 permit that protects polluters from any consequences, residents are going to wonder where exactly their money is going. We’ve learned a lot from the previous permit and now the Regional Board needs to fix what’s broken.

About the Authors

Corinne Bell

Senior Attorney, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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