Press Release

Environmental Groups Petition EPA to Make Polluters Pay for LA Water Contamination

Kimiko Martinez, NRDC, 310-434-2344 or 310-500-9505 (cell), kmartinez@nrdc.org

Jeff Odefey, American Rivers, 914-584-8972, jodefey@americanrivers.org

LOS ANGELES (September 17, 2015) — American Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Los Angeles Waterkeeper petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency today to make polluters accountable for stormwater runoff contamination of two Los Angeles waterways: the Dominguez Channel and the Los Cerritos Channel. Currently, rainfall washes pollution, such as zinc, copper, and ammonia into the Channels, where it is carried into the Pacific Ocean.

“This urban slobber contaminates our waterways, with significant negative impacts on public health, wildlife and ecosystems,” said Larry Levine, senior attorney with NRDC.

The environmental groups petitioned EPA under a provision in the Clean Water Act known as “residual designation authority,” or RDA, which provides that if EPA determines that a category of stormwater discharges is contributing to water quality violations, the agency must exercise its RDA and require those dischargers to apply for permits and address polluted runoff. In this case, the polluters in question are certain commercial, institutional and industrial properties, which generate significant pollution due to their impervious surfaces such as paved parking lots and rooftops. Almost half of the land in the heavily urban Dominquez Channel and Los Cerritos Channel watersheds is industrial or commercial with large areas of impervious surfaces, and nearby waterways are contaminated with industrial pollutants.

Such contamination can be costly for local communities and municipalities. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), up to 25 percent of economic damage caused by flooding occurs because runoff overwhelms urban drainage systems.

“The economic impact is compounded because coastal and marine waters support millions of jobs that depend upon safe, clean water,” said Jeff Odefey, director of Clean Water Supply Programs at American Rivers.

Requiring the government to continue to clean up the pollution that private parties create is both inefficient and unfair—particularly when Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles, which are tasked with maintaining safe water quality levels, do not control and cannot access the land from which the runoff comes. Requiring the sites creating the pollution to take action themselves is a commonsense solution.

If the petitions are successful, the responsibility for addressing water pollution will be shared by those corporations and industries creating the pollution problem.

“The intended result is cleaner water, healthier communities, and ultimately, improved quality of life in Los Angeles,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper. “And EPA exercising its authority and requiring private properties to do their fair share would also be a more evenhanded allocation of clean-up responsibility than the system we have now.”

The petitions would create room for commercial and industrial site owners to become partners in the stormwater management process, and offers them the opportunity to take advantage of proven, cost-effective green infrastructure practices that offer numerous benefits for communities in Los Angeles area watersheds.

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