Posted on November 8, 2011 by spoutingoff
New guidelines issued this week by L.A. County will lead to increased use of rainwater barrels.
L.A. County’s Department of Public Health has just released rainwater harvesting guidelines that help transform the region’s management of stormwater runoff. The guidelines apply to rainwater harvesting projects, including rain barrels and cisterns, and they significantly shift the approach from treating rainwater as a pollution source and flood control problem to managing it as a critical resource.
The guidelines were released at the site of a massive Proposition O project at Penmar Park in Venice. A giant pit and a huge dirt mound served as the backdrop Tuesday for the modest press event (the Conrad Murray verdict occurred an hour earlier). The Penmar Park project will capture runoff from the watershed from south-east Sunset Park in Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Airport and the Rose Avenue neighborhood near Walgrove Avenue. The cistern will store approximately 1 million gallons of runoff, which will then be disinfected and used for irrigation at the Penmar golf course and park.
The rainwater harvesting guidelines were negotiated over a two-year period with the City of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and the environmental community, led by Heal the Bay and Treepeople. They provide clarity and certainty to project developers on how to move forward with projects that capture and reuse rainwater. L.A. County Public Health, especially Angelo Bellomo and Kenneth Murray, earn major props for moving the guidelines forward.
Filed under: City of Los Angeles, Environmental Governance, Urban Runoff, Water Conservation, Water Recycling | Tagged: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, rainwater capture, rainwater harvesting guidelines | 3 Comments »
Posted on October 26, 2011 by spoutingoff
Water convention attendees want more regulatory clarity.
The WEFTEC water quality conference, with its acres of pumps, filters, water treatment devices and other gizmos, moved out of the L.A. Convention Center last week. But I’m still thinking about what the 20,000-person gathering of H2O nerds means for our nation’s waters. I was asked to give three talks at the conference: one on the public view of chemicals of emerging concern in recycled water; another on the future of stormwater regulation for cities and industry; and a discussion on the greening of Los Angeles through stormwater projects and regulation.
After the debates with water professionals, I was struck by a common need: Everyone wants greater regulatory consistency and clarity.
The current federal approach is for regulations, memos, and policies to have a great deal of “flexibility.” But that wiggle room means that there isn’t much incentive to improve water quality programs. Any investor in cutting-edge water treatment technology should have the expectation that the regulatory climate will push everyone to cleaner water that is more protective of human health and aquatic life.
Without that regulatory certainty, there’s no incentive for cities or industry to buy more expensive, more effective water pollution technologies other than “doing the right thing.” Based on the lack of progress on stormwater pollution abatement nationwide, the altruistic approach has resulted in limited success.
Filed under: Environmental Governance, Public Health, Sewage, Urban Runoff | Tagged: BMPs, numeric limits, stormwater regulations, WEFTEC | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 19, 2011 by spoutingoff
L.A. City Council's prudent decision to raise sewer fees will let crews replace deteriorating infrastructure.
The Los Angeles City Council today took the bold step of supporting unanimously a substantial sewage service fee increase. The household fee will incrementally increase from an average of $29 a month to $53 a month over the next 10 years. The hike will generate an additional $1.8 billion over the next decade to pay for much-needed sewer and sewage treatment plant maintenance, repairs and replacement.
I’ve been going to council meetings for over 25 years and this was the most sophisticated and intelligent council discussion on wastewater that I’ve ever seen. The lack of public opposition to the rate increase underscores the Bureau of Sanitation’s effectiveness in educating the public. Even the Chamber of Commerce strongly supported the measure.
The end result? Multiple wins – for public health, for the environment, for long-term, sustainable green jobs. It also marks a step in the restoration of my faith in the public process.
If the L.A. City Council can unanimously approve a major sewer service rate increase during an ongoing recession, then there is hope for government elsewhere to provide leadership on other environmental and green jobs issues. Today, L.A. understood that sewage infrastructure may be out of sight, but it can never be out of mind.
Filed under: Environmental Governance, Heal the Bay, Legislation, Sewage, Urban Runoff | Tagged: green infrastructure, Los Angeles City Council, sewer fees | Leave a Comment »
Posted on September 27, 2011 by spoutingoff
Rain barrels will be sprouting up all over L.A. now under a newly approved Low Impact Development ordinance.
Today the city of Los Angeles took a giant step forward on its long-promised goal to green itself — one new development at a time. After three years of negotiations, hearings, educational forums and technical discussions, the City Council voted 13-0 to support a Low Impact Development ordinance.
The vote means that nearly all new development and redevelopment in Los Angeles will have to treat rainwater as a resource rather than just a flood risk by early next summer. The approach is groundbreaking (or concrete breaking) in its wide-ranging application to all significant new and redevelopment – even single family homes.
So what does it mean from a practical point of view?
All new and redevelopment must capture and reuse or infiltrate 100% of the runoff generated by a three-quarter inch rain. As a result, development will be greener, flood control risks and runoff pollution will be reduced, and local groundwater supplies will be augmented. Single family homes will only have to include rain barrels, cisterns, rain gutter downspout redirects to landscaping, or rain gardens to comply with the ordinance.
Filed under: City of Los Angeles, Environmental Governance, Israel, Urban Runoff, Water Conservation, Water Recycling | Tagged: LID, Los Angeles City Council, Low Impact Development, stormwater, water reuse | 1 Comment »
Posted on September 7, 2011 by spoutingoff
Transparency has cost the Bureau of Sanitation.
About six months ago, the city of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation (BoS) started setting up dozens of meetings with the public and the environmental community on the city’s wastewater system upgrade plan and the need for a major increase in sewer service charges. After all, the BoS had frozen fee increases 14 out of the last 20 years. And it’s held the line the last three years at height of the recession, but wastewater infrastructure waits for no one.
BoS sought to demonstrate that the sewer infrastructure and its four sewage treatment plants (Terminal Island, Glendale, Tillman and Hyperion) are in danger of falling apart. The deteriorating pipes and plants pose a significant risk to public health and safety. Emergency repairs on the infrastructure may cost the city infintely more than replacing it. The delayed maintenance also exposes the city to costly litigation, enforcement and penalties.
Heal the Bay was founded in 1985 on the issue of decaying sewer infrastructure. Some Santa Monica Bay bottom-dwelling fish had tumors and fin rot, and there was a dead zone seven miles out in the middle of the Bay where Hyperion dumped its1200+ tons of sludge every day. Also, million gallon sewage spills were commonplace.
After the city rebuilt Hyperion and major sections of the sewer infrastructure, the dead zone went away, the massive sewage spills decreased in frequency, and the Bay began to heal.
However, in the late 1990s, the frequency of sewage spills started to rise again. Then Santa Monica Baykeeper sued the city and the end result was an agreement to repair and replace much more of the sewer infrastructure. Just as important, the city ramped up its sewer inspection and repair program. The end result was a more than 80% drop in sewage spills. The days of students walking through raw sewage-filled streets on their way to school were a thing of the past.
Filed under: City of Los Angeles, Environmental Governance, Heal the Bay, L.A. DWP, Public Health, Sewage, Urban Runoff, Water Conservation, Water Quality, Water Recycling | Tagged: Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, sewer infrastructure, utility rate increases | Leave a Comment »
Posted on August 23, 2011 by spoutingoff
The D.C. quake led to evacuations that snuffed heated negotiations at the EPA over new beach water quality criteria.
I flew out to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, to help voice environmental community concerns about the direction of the National Beach Water Quality Criteria due out in 2012. The NRDC’s Steve Fleischli, a longtime friend, joined me for the meeting with Stoner and about a dozen Office of Water staffers in the EPA East building. Other enviros from Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay and New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action joined by phone.
We remain upset with the direction of the EPA draft criteria for a number of reasons. At a workshop in New Orleans earlier this year, and in a number of subsequent conference calls, EPA Office of Water staff made it clear that the proposed rules would be nearly identical to the 1986 criteria, marking almost no changes in 25 years. In some ways, the criteria will be even weaker than the 1986 version, despite more than two decades of new studies.
I had the privilege of taking the lead for the enviros in the meeting. I explained that EPA was considering an approach to beach water quality regulation that would be far less protective than California’s and would compound existing weaknesses in the 25-year-old criteria. Because I’ve spent those same 25 years working on beach water quality issues as an advocate, scientist, public health professional and legislative sponsor, I was pretty wound up.
About 50 minutes into today’s meeting, as I was attempting to make a key point, the ground started to move. Then the chandeliers started to sway. The rock ‘n’ roll continued for nearly a minute, with some folks moving away from the light fixtures, others diving under the desk and still others crowding the door jamb. There I stood, making a stand for greater health protection for swimmers and surfers during a 5.9 earthquake.
Filed under: Beaches, Environmental Governance, Heal the Bay, Public Health, Sewage, Urban Runoff, Water Quality | Tagged: D.C. earthquake, EPA, National Beach Water Quality | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 26, 2011 by spoutingoff
Would the EPA call this impairment?
Does the scene in this photo count as algal impairment under the Clean Water Act? I’m just curious if the folks in Florida that are attempting to blow up the Clean Water Act over proposed nutrient standards would agree that this is impairment. After all, the kids appear to be enjoying themselves, and after all, isn’t that what recreational water contact is all about? Heal the Bay gets in a lot of fights on the definition of algal impairment with regulators and the regulated community. When you see pictures like the ones from Qingdao in China, it makes you realize that the regulated community isn’t even willing to come part way on the issue. If there is a Karenia bloom in Florida that poses a respiratory health risk to beach goers, is that an impairment? If Malibu Creek has an antifreeze algae bloom that covers the entire creek for a quarter mile, is that impairment? The regulated community may argue that 10% algal cover for 30% of the time isn’t impairment (a definition previously used by some at EPA). But how can they look at pictures like those in China, Florida and Malibu Creek and not offer nutrient reduction recommendations?
Harmful algal blooms are a growing problem that are choking our nation’s rivers and coastal waters with devastating impacts to aquatic ecosystems. Yet, the EPA and most states are still arguing over the right thing to do and completing an endless series of studies. They should be requiring aggressive reductions in nutrient discharge loadings (nitrogen and phosphorus) and concentrations, and they should have done it years ago.
Filed under: Environmental Governance, Malibu Lagoon, Public Health, Urban Runoff | Tagged: Algal blooms, EPA | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 21, 2011 by spoutingoff
The EPA didn't reveal new beach water quality monitoring criteria at its just concluded annual National Beach Conference. But there were other tidbits to share.
I spent last week at the EPA’s National Beach Conference in Miami, where I gave a couple of presentations, learned about the latest in beach water quality research, and heard from EPA on the upcoming criteria for measuring water quality.
EPA’s criteria haven’t been updated since 1986, and the new rules are required to be completed by the end of 2012 under a Consent Decree with the NRDC. With the recent completion of a comprehensive research plan, EPA staff members have all the information they’ll use to develop the new criteria.
Unfortunately, within the first two hours of the conference it became clear that the EPA wasn’t far enough in criteria development to share anything new with conference participants. Instead, we were told that the draft criteria will make their debut June 14-15 at a meeting in New Orleans.
Conference participants asked if the new criteria would be as protective as the existing ones. (Current criteria are based on an 8 in a 1,000 risk of stomach flu for swimmers at freshwater beaches and 19 in 1,000 for ocean beaches). Also, they asked if the criteria would allow states, cities or counties to develop site-specific rules. And would beach monitoring programs be required to use rapid methods to quantify fecal bacteria densities in a few hours rather than waiting until the next day?
All questions were left unanswered.
Despite the lack of clarity on the direction of the criteria, there were some noteworthy outcomes at the conference.
Filed under: Environmental Governance, Heal the Bay, Public Health, Sewage, Urban Runoff | Tagged: beach water quality monitoring, EPA, National Beach Conference, rapid method testing | Leave a Comment »
Posted on February 24, 2011 by spoutingoff
Despite years of public outcry at Rincon and other locales, the State Water Board has been slow to adopt mandated regulations on septic systems
Enough is enough. Although Heal the Bay generally only uses litigation as a last resort, we do have our limits. On Tuesday, Santa Barbara environmental group Heal the Oceans and Heal the Bay filed a lawsuit against the State Water Resources Control Board for its failure to implement Assembly Bill 885, which required the Board to develop regulations for on-site wastewater treatment systems. AB 885 was authored by former assembly member Hannah-Beth Jackson in 1999 and Gov. Davis signed it into law in 2000. The bill required the Board to develop regulations for the siting, permitting and operation of on-site wastewater treatment systems, or OWTS, by 2004.
The regulations took aim at septic systems, which pose a serious threat to water quality at several famous beaches up and down the coast. After seven years of patience and a decade of regulatory negotiations with the state, county health agencies, OWTS experts and local government representatives, the environmental groups involved felt that they had no choice but to sue the state to ensure that the law would be implemented. Coast Law Group filed the suit on behalf of the organizations.
Both groups were instrumental in the passage of the law as bill sponsors. In the 1990s, while Hillary Hauser and Heal the Oceans led efforts to clean up chronically polluted Rincon, Heal the Bay pushed for cleanup at the even more polluted Surfrider Beach. Both groups noted scientific studies that found human pathogens in the adjacent coastal lagoons — strong evidence that nearby septic systems were causing or contributing to chronic water quality problems that posed health risks to the surfing community.
Filed under: Heal the Bay, Legislation, Urban Runoff, Malibu Lagoon, Sewage, Marine Life, Environmental Governance | Tagged: AB 885, Heal the Oceans, lawsuits, septic systems, State Water Resources Control Board, Water Quality | Leave a Comment »
Posted on February 16, 2011 by spoutingoff
Can you spot the ringer in this All Star lineup?
On an overcast Tuesday morning, a crowd of 300 volunteers came out to clean the beach at Santa Monica Pier alongside their Los Angeles Dodgers heroes. Nearly every volunteer was dressed in Dodger gear and some came three hours early to meet Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzeula, Derrel Thomas, Sweet Lou Johnson, Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jay Gibbons. Despite the drizzle, everyone had a great time picking up trash, getting autographs and listening to the players tell stories of their exploits on the diamond.
The Dodgers visit, courtesy of team exec Howard Sunkin and owner Frank McCourt, marked a stop on a public service caravan around L.A. before the men in blue take off for spring training and the grapefruit league at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. Howard introduced me to the players on the team bus and I felt a heckuva lot more nervous than I do testifying at city council. When Steve Garvey and Fernando came off the bus, I felt like I was in a time machine transported to my days as a teenager obsessed with the outcome of all 162 games on the schedule. After posing for a “team photo” right next to Fernando, I gathered up the nerve to tell the Dodger legend that I was there to watch him pitch as a 19-year-old call up in the September of 1980. Ever stoic, Valenzuela shook my hand and said nothing.
Then we walked across the sand to the sea of blue of Dodger fans in front of a standing microphone. I walked alongside former slugger Shawn Green and asked him some small-talk question about what he was up to now in the O.C. He answered politely. I always was a big Greenie fan. Star center fielder Matt Kemp took the long way to mic because he didn’t want to get his new black Nike kicks sandy. He soon got over that. Of course, Charlie Steiner emceed the event. Steiner remarked “it was a beautiful day for a ballgame” despite the gloomy drizzle. He introduced the entire Dodger lineup and then welcomed S.M. Mayor Richard Bloom and me. That’s right, I got an intro from Charlie Steiner. How cool is that!
Filed under: Heal the Bay, Urban Runoff, Volunteering | Tagged: Beach Cleanups, Los Angeles Dodgers, Sweet Lou Johnson | 1 Comment »