Environment & Science

Court rules regulators can enforce anti-stormwater rules at beaches, along coast

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A state appeals court has ruled that regional water regulators can enforce rules designed to cut the impacts of stormwater pollution at beaches and along the coast.

Stormwater runs off L.A. County streets, and flows through the L.A. River basin – carrying trash, metals, debris, bacteria and other pollutants to beaches and the coast.

NRDC’s David Beckman says the federal Clean Water Act requires regional regulators to protect human health from that runoff. "Science is science. You get sick when you come in contact with polluted water based on the density of the pathogens that you come in contact with. These are technical assessments. And it’s critically important that a regulation be based on science."

The three-judge appellate panel sided with the NRDC, Baykeeper, Heal the Bay and the L.A. regional water quality control board in a case brought by a building trade group, the City of Arcadia and 17 other cities from Claremont to Paramount. The city coalition had argued that controlling stormwater pollution would be impossibly expensive.

Beckman points out people in those cities have essentially been paying for the lawsuit. "Millions of dollars are being spent by these cities. Public dollars. And that money is going to lawyers in big office buildings to bring lawsuits that are ultimately not in the public interest."

Lawyers for the cities and for the building industry have not yet said whether that coalition plans to appeal this latest ruling.