Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The other kind of Water Boarding

by Laura Reinhard, Policy Associate

While most Bay Area residents don’t lose sleep wondering what is going on at the San Francisco Regional Water Board, people in Vallejo (and elsewhere around the Bay) just might start. The Vallejo Times-Herald recently reported that the city's Rindler Creek is one of many Bay Area creeks being considered for the EPA's "303d" list of trash-impaired waterways. This "303d" designation has sparked backlash from municipalities and, on January 14, brought a showdown at the ol’ Water Board hearing room. I was glad to be there to witness some real leadership for the environment.

On one side: The Clean Water Act and the health of the Bay

On the other: The well-paid consultants who make their money off of studying trash pollution at city expense.

And the bone of contention is the possibility of the Water Board reporting 24 Bay tributaries and two sections of Bay shoreline to the EPA for being so full of trash as to violate the Clean Water Act,. This would require cities to clean up the trash and fix the problem. You will note, quite often the companies making lots of money studying a problem for cities are not the companies making money fixing the problem.

Bay Area cities are understandably concerned about budget woes. But it makes more sense to invest in solutions than superfluous studies of a well-documented problem. Inserts in storm drains that catch trash are one type of project that would keep trash out of our waterways.

In considering reporting these creeks and shorelines to the EPA, several Water Board members spoke out about the crisis of trash and plastic debris in the Bay. Board member Steve Moore, an engineer who has extensive experience with runoff and trash issues, spoke passionately about the need for action. He pointed out the opportunity to put Bay Area residents to work through overdue infrastructure investments that will also clean up the trash and polluted runoff choking our waterways.

The outcome of this showdown looks to be going the Bay’s way. An official vote won’t come until next month or later, but if the January 14 hearing was any indication, the score might be Bay: 1 Trash: 0

Learn more about Save The Bay's Bay Trash Hot Spots

No comments: