Healing San Pedro Bay

Some of the new regulations designed to clean up San Pedro Bay are more fork than spoon unfortunately.

Santa Monica Bay pollution may make the headlines, but the pollution in San Pedro Bay is a lot worse.  Last week the Regional Water Quality Control Board made an attempt to heal our other local bay by passing the most comprehensive and complicated Total Maximum Daily Load in California history.  (TMDLs are water body-specific pollutant limits.) The TMDL covered 79 different impairments of  Dominguez Channel and the Greater Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor (San Pedro Bay) waters and contaminants, including heavy metals like mercury, lead and copper, DDT, PCBs, toxicity and petroleum hydrocarbons.

The bottom line is that there are now five species of fish in the Bay that the state recommends you avoid eating and another 11 that you shouldn’t eat more than once a week.  Also, there are numerous toxic hotpots and the benthic ecology (bottom-dwelling animals) at some of those locations is highly degraded.

Although this TMDL was one of the most important in the entire Consent Decree between the environmental community and the EPA, it was delayed until 2011 because of its complexity and the number of industrial heavy hitters that are regulated by the action, including such players as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, numerous oil companies, the Montrose Chemical Co. (the folks who brought us DDT), and numerous upstream cities with intense industrial use. Perhaps the biggest reason for the lateness of the TMDL was the complex and time-consuming modeling (five years in the making) of San Pedro Bay and the Dominguez Channel required to develop the regulation.

The Regional Board voted 5-0 to approve the staff recommended TMDL over strong opposition from Montrose and the Coalition for Practical Regulation cities. Montrose and the CPR cities opposed the TMDL because of cost concerns, and they actually claimed that they shouldn’t have to pay for the Dominguez Channel and San Pedro Bay cleanup because they already had to pay millions of dollars under the Superfund and Natural Resources damages lawsuit in the 1990s. In other words, “Let the locals eat toxic fish!”

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Nerd Alert!

Water Effects Ratios in L.A. River are no joke.

Warning!  Sometimes I’m prone to write in nerd-speak about the confusing labyrinth of water quality regulations that weaken water quality protection. With apologies to the reader, this is one of those times.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Board approved Thursday yet another Water Effects Ratio (WER) for a polluted water body. A WER is a pseudo-scientific modeling exercise to determine how much of a pollutant is bioavailable to kill or poison aquatic life.

The only time anyone ever does a WER study is to get out of complying with water quality standards to protect human health and aquatic life. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done a WER study that has resulted in tougher water quality standards. So in essence WER really stands for Water Effluent limit Reductions.

Because the Regional Water Board has become WERS ‘R’ Us, Heal the Bay has begged the board to develop some semblance of a policy or guidance to bring strong science to the WER development process.

Once again, the board pointedly refused our pleas and granted a WER/effluent reduction by a factor of nearly 4 for copper discharges to the Los Angeles River from Burbank and L.A. sewage treatment plants.

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A Shameful Screw-Up

It pays to pollute at Malibu's Paradise Cove

The L.A. Regional Water Board issued a shocking order Tuesday to allow the Kissel Co. to walk away nearly scot free despite its involvement in hundreds of water quality violations at Paradise Cove in Malibu over the past decade. Paradise Cove has long been one of the most polluted beaches in Santa Monica Bay. The mobile park, which is owned and operated by Kissel, has been one of the largest sources of fecal pollution to the beach. Raw sewage from the park has frequently spilled in the street. The Kissel Co. has failed to build a new on-site sewage treatment plant and sewers for over a decade despite the issuance of numerous Time Schedule Orders with an array of compliance deadlines.

How did the most egregious serial Bay polluter of the 21st century get away with so many violations?

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