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Signs warn the public to stay out of the water in an area harboring high bacteria levels near a drain at Will Rogers State Beach on August 7, 2007 in Pacific Palisades, northwest of Los Angeles, California.
Local governments in Los Angeles scored a victory today over environmentalists in the Supreme Court. The issue at hand was runoff from L.A.’s storm water sewer system. Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. and Santa Monica Baykeeper were accusing Los Angeles County of violating the Clean Water Act.
The city’s runoff system carries storm water to the Pacific Ocean, and is often marked by the various materials and substances which find their way into the water due to storms and flooding. Thus, environmental groups stressed that the drainage system was allowing for the discharge of pollutants into the Pacific, as bacteria and feces were often far above normal levels. The Supreme Court, however, determined that water, and any pollutants in said water, flowing from a runoff system into the ocean wasn’t the same as actively polluting a waterway. While the legal aspects are settled for now, there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this issue.
Namely, who is responsible for monitoring and cleaning this water? If not local governments, then does it go to the state or federal level? What groups should be overseeing this? What laws, regulations or permit policies should change to better deal with this problem?
Steve Fleischli, director, Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program
Mark Pestrella, assistant director, L.A. County Public Works Department