Court decision: Water boards failed to follow state law

Submitted by
The Coalition for Practical Regulation

In a recent court decision, Signal Hill, as well as 17 other Los Angeles County cities, and the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation have prevailed in a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court challenging the water quality standards for the Los Angeles region regarding storm water and urban runoff.
The Superior Court found that the state and the Los Angeles Regional Water Boards failed to comply with state laws requiring that water quality standards be reasonable. The court also found that storm water regulations could be unreasonable and unachievable, since several were based on potential future uses.
The court concluded the water boards had failed to complete the state law-required review of the effects of storm water regulations on the economy and housing.
“We hope that the judge’s decision will encourage the water boards to initiate a sincere dialogue with all of the cities,” said Signal Hill councilman Larry Forester. “We want to work with the boards on reasonable standards that will result in more efficient and cost-effective ways to improve surface water quality in the region.”
Forester added, “The 18 cities are committed to improving the environment and will continue to fully fund and carry out all of their existing storm water and urban runoff programs.”
The litigation stemmed from a concern raised by a number of cities and the Building Industry Legal Defense Fund that existing water quality control regulations were never intended to be applied to storm water. The parties argued that the standards were outdated and not based on sound science and that implementing standards not intended for storm water would result in unnecessarily costly programs funded by local taxpayers and homeowners.
The water quality standards were first adopted by the water boards in 1975 and last amended in 1994.
“Science and technology have come a long way since 1975 and even since 1994. There have been great advances in the treatment and control of urban runoff, but we are a long way from perfection, and reasonable standards are needed to be developed for storm water and urban runoff,” said Forester. “The water boards have to recognize that all levels of government, local, state and federal have limited financial resources to tackle major water quality problems.”
The litigation involved the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation and the cities of Arcadia, Bellflower, Carson, Cerritos, Claremont, Commerce, Downey, Duarte, Glendora, Hawaiian Gardens, Irwindale, Lawndale, Monterey Park, Paramount, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, Vernon and Whittier.
For more information about the case, contact Signal Hill city manager Ken Farfsing at (562) 989-7305.

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