Sediment standards for water quality

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Feb. 1, 2008 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) will hear comments on February 5th on its draft "Proposed Water Quality Control Plan for Enclosed Bays and Estuaries."  The draft sets sediment quality objective standards (SQOs).

As proposed, this plan could have a tremendous impact on anyone discharging "solids," now or in the past, that end up as sediment in a bay, estuary or via a tributary to a bay or estuary.  

Once sediment is classified as impacted, studies will be done to determine which chemicals are responsible for the impact.  Associated dischargers will almost certainly be ordered to clean up the sediment to meet the established SQOs.

In 2003, SQO standards were set for high priority toxic hot spots.  At that time, the SWRCB estimated that compliance would cost $800 million to remediate the 20 identified sites, 17% of California’s bays and estuaries.  The proposed SQOs expand coverage to 100% of all bays and estuaries in California and will skyrocket the total cost of compliance.  

Not only are the SQOs overly broad, but the State Board’s own peer reviewers agree that there are significant scientific problems.  Currently, SQOs are based on levels which bear no relationship between chemical concentration and observed toxicological effects.  Despite the lack of relationship, SQOs set low chemistry thresholds that result in sediment being classified as impacted when there is no evidence of impact.  In addition, SQOs do not properly account for toxicity that isn’t linked to the presence of chemical contamination in the sediment.  SQOs have a high likelihood of concluding that sediment is impacted by contaminants, even if the sediment contains little or no contamination.

CMTA urges the SWRCB to oppose the SQOs being proposed.

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