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By Tammye McDuff 


It appears that local cities in and around Southeast Los Angeles County are facing new hurdles in the ongoing battle over water conservation. 

The latest MS4 Permit was adopted by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board on November 8, 2012, and became effective December 28, 2012. This Permit has been issued to 84 municipalities within the County.  

Technically, the permit is a part of the Water Pollution Control Act (aka Clean Water Act) and states that the discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States from any point source is unlawful unless the discharge complies with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.   

All cities in Southern California are under the compliance of MS4 and the Permit is now up for renewal with upgraded policies regarding pollution. 

HMG-CN contacted John L. Hunter and Associates, which is a state, registered environmental assessor for an explanation of the MS4 Permit.  Cameron McCullough, Environmental Programs Manager said, “MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, which is another name for storm drains. These drains flow to concrete channels, which go to rivers making its way into the ocean. MS4 Permit is issued by the Water Control Board to ensure there is some sort of control of pollutions draining into the storm drain system.” 

The California State Water Resource fact sheet states the following: “A municipal separate storm sewer is a conveyance or system of conveyances, to include roads with drainage systems, municipal streets, catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, manmade channels, or storm drains, owned or operated by a State, city, town, borough, county, parish, district, association, or other public body having jurisdiction over disposal of sewage, industrial wastes, storm water, or other wastes, including special districts under State law such as a sewer district, flood control district or drainage district, or similar entity.” 

 Simply stated, if there is a water run-off from any location, whether it be business or residential there must be a treatment[s] in place that will remove or recycle water pollution.  The new Permit represents a shift in the way storm water is regulated. Storm water permits provide cities with incentives for integrated water planning. By combining water supply and water quality planning, municipalities can work together with funding partners, to build projects that can regulate numerous storm water discharges under a single permit, called watershed groups. 

 According to Bernie Iniguez, Environmental Services Manager for the city of Bellflower,  

“The Integrated Coordinated Monitoring Program means the city will monitor the watershed in order to measure the level of pollutants in the water. Cities will need to build ‘large capture projects’ called Structural Management Practices. This procedure would either have to retain the water discharge or capture, contain and recycle it into the ground water.”   

 Cities are now facing the challenge of space.  In order to construct these facilities, large properties are needed; if vacant space is not available, cities are considering partnerships with local utility companies [such as Edison] or school districts. The problem of liability issues lay within the partnership with companies or school districts.  

 As stated by representatives of Bellflower, Commerce, Downey and McCullough, increased rates should not affect the individuals’ water rate, but may affect prices according to fees charged to businesses and restaurants. Gina Mila, Environmental Social Manager for the city of Commerce said, “The implementation of these new policies will be costly. We do expect a financial impact, for example, a high-end large warehouse type company could expect a cost of up to 10K a year. However we do not have a final figure at this time.”

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