Beach Blunder

A judge's ruling puts S.M. Bay ocean users at risk.

Los Angeles County’s relentless pursuit of saving a buck at the expense of public health was once again rewarded Wednesday morning.

On a technicality, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe (the same judge who decided that a full blown EIR was needed to ban plastic bags in Manhattan Beach) ruled that the Regional Water Board’s action to put the Santa Monica Beach Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load into the county stormwater permit was illegal.

In essence, the judge ruled that one lawyer can’t represent the Regional Water Board as an advisor and as an “advocate” (according to the judge) for a particular position.

Much to the relief and short-term financial benefit of the county, the judge refused to hear the merits of the case.

He basically ignored all of the health effects studies that demonstrate the potential risks of swimming in fecal indicator bacteria-polluted water, including in the Bay.

He disregarded all the proof that runoff diversions and package treatment plants can make beaches clean and safe, thereby demonstrating that runoff is the primary source of beach pollution.

He dismissed all of the monitoring data that demonstrated that beaches from Redondo Pier to Dockweiler to Santa Monica Pier to Surfrider Beach regularly received poor grades on our Beach Report Card and violated TMDL standards hundreds of times.

For the state Attorney General and Heal the Bay counsel Steve Fleischli, it was like studying your butt off for a World History exam and only getting tested on the comics section in today’s paper.

As for county officials, they skated through the proceedings like  ‘SC pigskin walk-ons skipping the final before the Notre Dame game.

What’s next?  For the county, a continued approach of cleaning up beaches when convenient and when free money for capital improvement projects is thrown its way. County officials have labored for three years to increase funding to do a better job at reducing runoff pollution and protecting public health and aquatic life. But they have nary a penny to show for it.

With their current lackadaisical plans, the county planners won’t have additional funding for stormwater pollution abatement until 2014 at the earliest — clearly not a pace that suggests clean water is a top priority.

As for the Regional Water Board, there will be yet another hearing on placing the beach bacteria TMDL requirements in the stormwater permit. The earliest date for the hearing is October.

And Judge Yaffe’s decision could lead to two lawyers at every regional board hearing from now on, which is an enormous waste of legal resources and taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, beach water quality standards will continue to be violated regularly this summer, putting the public health of 50 million people at risk.

Heal the Bay's Beach Report CardChecking out Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card© before you go swimming has never been more important. If you don’t, you swim at your own risk.

At least the lifeguards will be looking out for you, even if no one else at the county will.

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