October 15, 2001

 

Loretta Barsamian

Executive Officer

Regional Water qualityControl Board, San Francisco Region

1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400

Oakland, CA 94612

 

RE:      Requestto reconsider the Board staff’s proposed list of impaired waters

 

Dear Ms. Barsamian,

 

On behalf of ourcollective members, we are writing to urge that your staff reconsider itsrecently circulated revisions to the 303(d) List of impaired waters(“Draft 303(d) List”)[1].   We are concerned that theproposed list effectively ignores dozens of waterbodies that are clearlypolluted and will delay essential cleanup action for years, if notindefinitely.

 

As you know, Section 303(d)of the Clean Water Act requires your agency to list any waterbodies for whichbest-available-technology regulatory schemes have failed to ensure compliance with waterquality standards.  Such listingtriggers a mandatory duty by your agency to ensure that all sources ofimpairing pollutants are reduced to a level that will not result in waterquality violations.  In addition,listing provides additional regulatory protection from new or increaseddischarges of problem pollutants.

 

Unfortunately, the Draft303(d) List proposed by your staff ignores many highly polluted creeks,stretches of shoreline and San Francisco Bay segments .   Of more than seventy waterwayssubmitted to the Board with evidence for listing, only about a half dozenappear on the proposed list (though we support the Board’s proposal tolist several additional beaches that were not submitted).   We also urge the Board not todelist the San Francisco Bay North of the Dumbarton Bridge for copper andnickel, at least until a thorough assessment is complete.  These concerns are discussed in moredetail below:

 

The proposal to delist the San Francisco Bay, North of DumbartonBridge, for copper and nickel is premature.

Last year the Boardembarked upon a process to evaluate copper and nickel toxicity in the SanFrancisco Bay, North of the Dumbarton Bridge.  This process was to include several rounds of water qualitymonitoring and a peer reviewed data analysis. Board staff also committed toaccommodating public input as the process evolved and pledged to develop an“Action Plan” to ensure that a delisting decision does not resultin further degradation of the Bay. Unfortunately, this process seems to have stalled.  To date, there has been no stakeholdermeeting since April; there has been no peer reviewed data analysis; and therehas been no proposal for an Action Plan. Until this process is complete, there should be no proposal to take theSan Francisco Bay North of the Dumbarton Bridge off the 303(d) List for copperand nickel.

 

No rationale isgiven for ignoring many studies submitted to the Board in support of listing.

The Draft 303(d) ListReport acknowledges that numerous scientific studies were received by the WaterBoard in support of consideration for listing but were not recommended forlisting by the Board. Unfortunately, for many of these waterways, no explanation for theBoard’s decision against listing is evident in the Draft 303(d) ListReport.  We are particularlyconcerned that the Board has not listed any of the waterways identified in itsown Regional Toxic Hotspot Cleanup Plan and that no explanation was providedfor this decision.  The Planindicates that eight waterways in the Bay Area are polluted by variouscombinations of heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides and other contaminants.  Failure to list waterbodies such asIslais Creek and Mission Creek, which are recognized Toxic Hotspots, not onlydeprives these waterways of needed protection, but deprives heavily impactedsurrounding communities of a critical tool for reducing pollution theirneighborhoods.

 

Water Board staffpropose to arbitrarily exclude wet weather data when evaluating coliform and E.coli contamination.

Water Board staff arguethat there is less frequency of water contact recreation during the winter wetseason and that “naturally occurring bacteria” can skew data duringwet weather flows.  This reasoningis unacceptable.  The data showthat contamination by coliform bacteria is highest during wet weather whenurban runoff washes pathogens off the urban landscape, overwhelms sewagetreatment plants, floods septic system leach fields and washes animal wasteinto our waterways. Furthermore, many water users, such as surfers, spend moretime in contaminated waterways duringwet weather. The Clean Water Act requires listing of the waterway on the 303(d)List if it is not meeting water quality standards, regardless of the source.

 

The Draft 303(d)List fails to list anywaterways for trash, in spite of overwhelming evidence that many Bay Areacreeks are full of garbage.

The Draft 303(d) ListReport confirms that evidence submitted by the public and its own data indicatethat "there are excessive levels of trash in virtually all urbanizedwaterways of the San Francisco Bay Region.”[2]  The Report also acknowledges that notenough is currently being done to comply with water quality standards fortrash.[3]  Yet, the report fails to propose anywaterbodies for listing due to trash, recommending instead to wait several moreyears to see if other efforts correct the problem, and suggesting that morestudy be conducted to evaluate the "types" of trash now strewn in BayArea creeks.

 

We find these argumentslacking.  In fact, where previousor existing management efforts have failed to keep trash out of our creeks,listing is now explicitly required by the Clean Water Act.  We are also alarmed by staff’sspeculation that some types of trash are more harmful than others, which seemsto imply that creeks full of certain types of garbage are acceptable. 

 

The Draft 303(d)List fails to include Bay Area creeks that are impaired by sediment pollution.

Sedimentation anderosion processes are known to destroy fish habitat and are recognized by theBoard to threaten numerous waterways around the Bay Area.  The Draft 303(d) List itself notes that"all larger streams in the San Francisco Bay Region, without exception,have sediment-related impacts such a down-cutting, bank erosion and sedimentdelivery from the hill slopes due to 150 years of intensive urban andagricultural land use.”[4]  Yet the report proposes to avoidlisting these waterbodies because of existing management efforts, lack ofknowledge about sediment sources or lack of knowledge about more specificimpacts.   Theseconcerns are irrelevant to the Board's mandate to list. The Board’s waterquality standard for sediment is to prohibit sediment discharges that“cause nuisance or adversely affect beneficial uses."[5].  Beneficial uses include habitat for aquatic life in Bay Area creeks, including many threatened or endangeredspecies.  Evidence of adverseeffects on that habitat by sediment requires a waterway to be listed.

 

Regional Board staffclaim that data are too “old” to list numerous Bay Area creekswhich are contaminated with toxic heavy metals.

Nine Bay Area creeksreceived comprehensive water quality monitoring scrutiny in the mid-1990s andwere found to routinely violate water quality standards for cadmium, lead,copper, chromium, mercury and nickel. The myriad of sources of heavy metalsthat existed in the mid-1990s (runoff from industrial facilities, vehicleemissions, and atmospheric deposition, among others) exist today and no evidencehas been presented which suggests that these waterways have improved.  In fact, a Coyote Creek study publishedin 2000 documents water quality standard violations of the same toxic heavymetals that were documented in 1996, yet Board staff inexplicably do notpropose to list this waterway. Faced with compelling evidence that creeks were routinely violatingwater quality standards and no evidence of improvement, this data warrantslisting by the Board.

Your consideration ofthese concerns is greatly appreciated. 

Respectfully,

 

Olin Webb

Bayview-Hunters PointCommunity Advocates

 

Russel Long

Bluewater Network

 

Teresa Olle

California PublicInterest Research Group

 

Kate Silberman

Center forEnvironmental Health

 

Jeff Marmar

Coalition for BetterWastewater Solutions

 

Marguerite Young

Clean Water Action

 

Michael Warburton

Community Water RightsProject

 

Arthur Feinstein

Golden Gate Audubon

 

Alex Lantsberg

India BasinNeighborhood Association

 

Jean Choi

The Ocean Conservancy(formerly Center for Marine Conservation)

 

W.F. “Zeke”Grader, Jr.

Pacific CoastFederation of Fisherman’s Associations

 

Jonathan Kaplan

San FranciscoBayKeeper, a project of WaterKeepers Northern California

 

Michael Paquet

San Francisco ChapterSurfrider Foundation

 

Jane Morrison

San Francisco Tomorrow

 

David Lewis

Save the Bay

 

Marylia Kelley

Tri-Valley CAREs

 

Josh Bradt

Urban Creeks Council

 

Henry Clark

West County ToxicsCoalition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Draft Staff Report, Proposed Revisions to Section303(d) List and Priorities for Development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)for the San Francisco Bay Region for Revising the 303(d) List of ImpairedWaterbodies, August 24, 2001.

[2] Draft 303(d)List Report at 14.

[3] ibid

[4] Draft 303(d) List Report at 11.

 

[5] San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Planat 3-3.