Take Action for Better Controls on Industrial Runoff Pollution

Sep 4, 2013

(Note: This Action Alert closed on September 19, 2013.) The state's top water management agency is considering a new permit governing industrial runoff pollution that largely maintains the status quo and is unlikely to protect or improve California waterways. California's State Water Resources Control Board recently issued a final draft of the update to the 15-year-old Industrial General Stormwater Permit. Unfortunately, after more than two years of work by San Francisco Baykeeper and our partner environmental advocates, the current draft fails to strengthen, and in some respects weakens, controls on the state’s industrial stormwater pollution.

Runoff from landfills, metal recyclers, and other industrial facilities can contain pollutants that are highly toxic and endanger California’s communities and watersheds. Click here to urge the State Water Board to improve standards for industrial runoff pollution.

The Industrial General Stormwater Permit sets standards for runoff pollution from most industrial facilities around the state. Exceptions include very large facilities, such as oil refineries, which require individual pollution permits. The State Water Board largely ignored input from Baykeeper and other California Waterkeepers to earlier drafts of the permit, while industry groups succeeded in incorporating changes that either maintain the status quo, or weaken the standards.

Baykeeper has continually expressed our disappointment that transparent technology-based effluent limits have been omitted from the Industrial General Stormwater Permit, despite such limits being required by the Clean Water Act whenever feasible. Last year, Baykeeper analyzed over 300,000 stormwater data records submitted by industrial facilities around the state to assist the State Board in determining appropriate standards. This analysis indicated numeric effluent limits could be achieved by most industrial facilities. Such standards would generate a more transparent regulatory process and recognize the significant efforts being made by thousands of industrial facilities taking the steps necessary to protect California’s waterways. Clear standards are required to bring the worst actors into compliance and level the playing field for those implementing appropriate stormwater pollution controls.

We also agree with some industry groups that the current draft of the permit introduces added confusion to permit holders about required monitoring, reporting, and establishment of stormwater management controls at their facilities.

Industrial stormwater pollution is caused by rainwater washing contaminants off of industrial facilities and into local water bodies or into storm drains that empty into creeks or directly to the Bay. Industrial runoff typically contains high concentrations of pollutants such as toxic metals and petroleum hydrocarbons. These contaminants place a heavy burden on the Bay’s fish and wildlife and contributes to chronic sediment toxicity observed throughout the Bay.

The State Water Board will consider final approval of the permit this fall, and will accept public comment on the permit until September 12. Click here to tell the State Water Board that you support improved controls on industrial runoff pollution. Controlling this toxic pollution source is vital to protecting the long-term health and sustainability of San Francisco Bay and all the state’s waterways.

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