California Commits to Significantly Reducing Storm Water Pollution


Image courtesy of mr.bmonroe via flickr

After years of unsuccessfully prodding, environmental groups scored a victory last Friday when they reached an agreement with Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, that would see the government agency reduce storm water pollution by 20% below 1994 levels. The agreement would prevent millions of gallons of runoff from state highways in Los Angeles and Ventura counties - covering more than 1,000 miles - from flowing into local estuaries and beaches.

Caltrans will need to have completed the new pollution controls by 2011, which leads many environmentalists to believe that the reductions will likely be achieved by 2015.Past EPA assessments of Caltrans drains in the LA area have shown that contamination levels - from the millions of gallons of oil that run from roads and sidewalks - were so high that the discharge qualified as "hazardous waste."

Research has consistently shown that the toxic runoff can seriously harm a variety of marine organisms, including fish, shrimp and sea urchins. In 2004, Caltrans had agreed to treat this runoff wherever "feasible" for projects involving more than 3 acres; NRDC and BayKeeper went to court after finding that the agency was having trouble complying with that settlement. This new agreement is significant because it requires targeted reductions in runoff, eschewing the previous piecemeal strategy that enabled Caltrans to consider highway corridors on an individual basis.

"Not setting goals has been standard operating procedure when regulating storm water discharges in the state. Now we are setting an end goal. Hopefully, this new approach will provide a model for local governments, transportation agencies and industries," said David S. Beckman, an attorney for NRDC.

Via ::Los Angeles Times: State to curb toxic runoff (newspaper)

See also: ::Why One Suburban Atlanta County Has No Drought Problem, ::Some More Good News: Recovery Suprisingly Fast for Mercury-Plagued Fish

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