Have you ever wanted to ask a regulator about his top enforcement priorities for the year? Alta’s President, Lisa Kay spoke with Eric Becker, PE of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board for a Q&A session to learn more. Eric is a Senior Water Resource Control Engineer and responsible for leading the Storm Water Management Unit. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Region 9) encompasses San Diego, southern Riverside and the southern portion of Orange Counties. His team is responsible for regulating storm water discharges from construction, industrial, and municipal activities.
What is your team’s top priority for 2015? Construction storm water compliance is one of our highest priorities. Last year we went into the field and found a large number of construction projects with various compliance problems. We are continuing a significant field presence to verify construction project storm water compliance.
How do you prioritize where to conduct your field investigations? First we look at the areas in the region with sediment impairment or high threat to water quality for sediment. Those are the first geographic watershed areas where we focus. We also revisit sites with prior compliance issues to follow up and ensure proper steps have been taken toward compliance.
We are really focused on evaluating both the MS4 Permit and the Construction General Permit. Municipalities under the MS4 Permit (Copermittees) have a responsibility to inspect, require Best Management Practices (BMPs), and enforce construction activities within their jurisdictions. Any construction project, whether by a private company or a public agency, is required to comply with the Construction General Permit (CGP) during construction. We have had issues with lack of enforcement by the in the City of San Diego over the past few years and we will continue to look at this dual compliance between the Copermittees) and the CGP holders (construction sites).
What are the top three non-compliance issues you see? The number one thing we find is a lack of erosion control BMPs. Some sites will have their sediment control BMPs in place, but fail to have erosion control BMPs, and these are two separate things. The second issue we see most often is a lack of maintenance of those BMPs. BMPs are there, but not well maintained to ensure they function during a storm event. The final and a very important issue we find is a real disconnect between the Construction General Permit Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP) or Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD) and the site superintendent on construction projects. What I mean, we see many instances where the QSP will have documented issues that need to be corrected and he or she will have informed the superintendent, but nothing was done to correct the problem. The CGP requires trained QSPs and QSDs specifically such that there will be trained storm water quality folks with separate responsibilities and focus from the site superintendent to identify issues and solutions, but it’s up to the site superintendent (or site manager) to make sure those issues are corrected, BMPs are implemented and maintained.
Because your team is really focused on field investigations, particularly at construction sites, can we expect to see an increase in enforcement actions in 2015?Absolutely. While I can’t talk about specifics because some are already in the works there will be more… many more, Administrative Civil Liability Assessments (ACLs) made this year. In particular, expect to see more ACLs where we assess penalties or fines against both the Copermittees and construction projects site., because in these instances there is non-compliance with both the MS4 Permit and the Construction General Permit.
What advice can you give a construction project team who’s reading this article?Make sure you follow up in a timely fashion with the recommendations your QSP/QSD makes. The CGP requires you to do so within 72 hours. Focus on erosion control, make sure you have that in place. Remember, if you are actually trying your best, you have BMPs in place, but they fail during a storm event we can deal with it. But if you fail to implement your BMPs or fail to maintain them expect us to take a hard look at your site and you are highly likely to see ACLs from us.