The vote scheduled July 13th to adopt enforceable clean water standards at area beaches that would have taken effect July 15th was postponed by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, according to the National Resources Defense Coun- cil (NRDC), a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.

The motion before the water control board would require local cities and Los Angeles County to comply with new beach water quality standard levels (Total Maximum Daily Loads) requiring beach waters and discharges from storm drains to be free from unhealthy levels of fecal bacteria every day during the summer months.

The new Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) would apply to all Santa Monica Bay beaches from Palos Verdes to the Ventura County line during dry weather between April and October, when tens of millions of residents and visitors use the beach, the National Resources Defense Council said.

“This refusal to act puts back on the shelf standards that would have protected millions of Los Angeles beachgoers this summer, from exposure to bacteria and viruses that can make them sick,” said David Beckman, a senior attorney with the National Resources Defense Council and director of its Coastal Water Quality program.

“If the [Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control] Board does not promptly adopt these new protections, we intend to force it to do so,” Beckham said.

The reason for the postponement of the vote was because of the amount of public comment and controversy that was raised about the issue, said Jonathan Bishop, enforcement officer for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region.

“We felt like we needed to take a little more time to make sure we have everything documented,” Bishop said. “There were a number of comments raised. We felt like the best approach for us was to put out a new [meeting] notice.”

Bishop said that, although he would like to have this issue taken care of, he and the board never like to go through with something where there might be a procedural problem.

“We’d rather fix that and then go forward,” he said. “In the interim, we are monitoring [for compliance] on any beaches.”

This matter will be discussed again at the water control board meeting Thursday, September 14th, Bishop said.

The deadline for clean water compliance by cities and other polluters would have been Saturday, July 15th. The board’s decision would have implemented a federal court consent decree, obtained by the National Resources Defense Council, Heal the Bay and Santa Monica Baykeeper in 1999 obligating the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board to set new, lower limits for water pollutants degrading Southern California waters.

Once adopted by the water control board, any violation of the new standards would be an express violation of the federal Clean Water Act, punishable by fines or other enforcement action.

Heal the Bay’s Annual Beach Report Card found that the five most polluted beaches in the state were in Los Angeles County and that 37 percent of the county’s beaches monitored last summer were frequently unsafe to swim in.

“What is at stake here is implementing the heart of the Clean Water Act in Southern California,” said Tracy Egoscue, executive director of Santa Monica Baykeeper. “The water board has flinched in the face of Saturday’s deadline, but we won’t.”

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