The following developments have led up to the current situation regarding water quality TMDL regulations governing stormwater management in Los Angeles:
Amendments to the Federal Clean Water Act focused on water quality standards and included certain stormwater pollutants in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program, which resulted in an NPDES permit system for stormwater similar to that for wastewater treatment plants.
U.S. EPA announced regulatory requirements for stormwater discharges. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) issued the first municipal stormwater NPDES permit to the County of Los Angeles and the 88 cities that comprise it, including the City of Los Angeles. This permit plays a large role in establishing water quality management requirements for stormwater and urban runoff. The City of Los Angeles is responsible for a municipal storm drain system that is subject to this permit. The system includes 1200 miles of storm drain pipe, 86 debris basins, 33,800 catch basins, and 11 pump plants that are distributed throughout the CityÕs 465 square miles.
The NPDES stormwater permit requires pollution control measures, called ÒBest Management PracticesÓ (BMPs). This approach assumes that pollutant reduction from BMPs will result in safe runoff discharges that will not negatively impact water quality.
Non-compliance with the stormwater permit exposes the City to civil and criminal penalties, fines, federal enforcement action, and third-party litigation. Civil penalties can reach $31,500 per day per violation and/or imprisonment of those who violate Permit requirements.
1996 through 1998 –
The Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act (also known as the California Water Code) mandates quality standards for surface and ground waters in the regions of California. Federal regulations require a biennial assessment by the State of water resources to identify and list impaired water bodies [303 (d) list].
The federal Clean Water Act also requires states to establish a priority ranking for impaired waters and to develop and implement TMDLs – the Total Maximum Daily Load of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards. The U.S. EPA has oversight authority for the 303(d) program and must approve or disapprove the StateÕs 303 (d) lists and each specific TMDL. The U.S. EPA is responsible for issuing a TMDL if the state (through the Regional Boards) fails to do so in a timely manner.
The U.S. EPA Region 9, Santa Monica BayKeeper and Heal the Bay, represented by the Natural Resources Defense Council, reached a Consent Decree that requires the State to enforce development of targeted compliance plans for a variety of pollutant and receiving waters. The Consent Decree requires that all Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for the Los Angeles region be adopted within 13 years. The Consent Decree also prescribes schedules for certain TMDLs.
The Regional Board adopted the current stormwater NPDES Permit (Order No. 01-182) that contains TMDL compliance regulations within the Receiving Water Limitations section. The Regional Board is responding to the federal Consent Decree noted above by developing targeted compliance plans using TMDLs to reduce pollutants in receiving waters.
2001 through 2004 –
So far, the Regional Board has formally adopted seven TMDLs for specific pollutants from urban runoff: