Baykeeper Petitions State to Reject SF Water Board’s Weak Rules for Urban Stormwater

Jun 10, 2022

OAKLAND, CA—Today, San Francisco Baykeeper brought a formal petition to Governor Newsom’s administration, asking the California State Water Resources Control Board to intervene and reject the inadequate urban stormwater permit recently issued by the Bay Area’s regional board. The state board has oversight authority over regional boards.


On May 11, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board issued its Municipal Regional Stormwater Permit, which is supposed to reduce the trash, metals, and bacteria that Bay Area cities discharge into the Bay. 


However, the permit does not require cities to monitor their stormwater outfalls, and makes allowances for repeat polluters to continue to pollute already contaminated waterways. It also includes a safe harbor provision that will shield cities that violate the Clean Water Act from legal liability. 


“The regional board can't solve the Bay's serious pollution problems if it willfully refuses to look at real data—they're like ostriches with their heads in the sand,” said SF Baykeeper senior staff attorney Eric Buescher. “By not requiring cities to monitor the stormwater that they discharge directly into local creeks and the Bay, they’re giving Bay Area cities a free pass to pollute. It's beyond comprehension that the regional board would allow cities that are known to violate clean water laws to keep on polluting the Bay, rather than require them to clean up their acts." 


SF Baykeeper’s field scientists regularly patrol waterways around the Bay to take samples of stormwater discharges from city outfalls, and have recorded samples that far exceed legal limits for fecal bacteria pollution. Baykeeper is currently taking legal action against Sunnyvale and Mountain View, which are the only Bay Area cities required to take samples under the new permit. Yet the regional board will deem these cities to be in compliance with the permit as well, regardless of how much they continue to pollute.  


“We shouldn’t be forced to live, work, and play around a polluted Bay when our local agencies and cities know they can do better, yet refuse to take meaningful action," added Buescher. "Baykeeper has spent the last five years working to improve this permit, but the regional board has failed this community. We had no choice but to ask the state board to intervene because Bay Area residents deserve better.”

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