San Diego Builders Contest Costly Water Permit
The Building Industry Association of San Diego and a coalition of Southern California business interests want the state’s water board to review the new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) storm water permit adopted Jan. 24 by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The MS4 permits are required to address community responsibilities under the federal Clean Water Act.
All 18 cities in San Diego, the San Diego County Office of Education Municipal Storm Water Group and the North County Transit District have also petitioned the state board.
“BIA and its petitioning partners are committed to securing a better permit: one that is socially responsible, fair, economically feasible and efficient so the mutual goal of clean water can be achieved,” said Paul Tryon, the association’s CEO.
The permit dictates a costly, inefficient storm water management strategy that does not help clean San Diego’s beaches and bays, petitioners said. It also will create conflict between state and regional board approaches to clean water.
“We are compelled, on behalf of our customers who will bear this additional expense when they purchase a home or rent office space, to push for a better, less costly solution to storm water management,” said Tryon.
The petition seeks to have the state intervene in the requirement to use chemicals on construction sites to treat discharged rain water and its related, unknown environmental impact; changes in managing the way the water comes off a property and what is in it; and the proposed permit’s overreaching jurisdiction at the expense of local land use authority, Tyron said.
“The new permit requires builders to trap all of the water on their site and treat it to drinking water quality, even though when that water leaves the site it joins all the other water flowing down our streets and gutters and into the ocean. At our current rate of construction we add the equivalent of 1% to our existing built environment,” Tyron said. “Water board staff has acknowledged that it will take decades for this incremental approach to show any meaningful environmental benefit. It doesn’t make sense to treat water this way, especially when the goal is clean water. Storm water should be managed regionally, just like our sewage system.”
A regional system can take advantage of economies of scale for the treatment of bacteria and for maintenance, while site-by-site treatment methods proposed by the challenged permit would not, he said.
“All home builders associations need to pay close attention to these MS4 permits as they come up for reauthorization,” said Marolyn Parson, water and wetlands director at NAHB.
Environmental and regulatory staff members at NAHB are compiling a toolkit on Clean Water Act permitting process that will focus on construction general permits but will include strategies that can apply to MS4 advocacy as well, she said.