State’s First Stormwater Permit Including the Trash Policy is Adopted in the City of Salinas
Back in 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopted the Trash Amendments or Trash Policy (also known as amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Ocean Waters of California and Part 1 Trash Provisions of the Water Quality Control Plan for Inland Surface Waters, Enclosed Bays, and Estuaries of California). This groundbreaking policy provides statewide consistency for the State and Regional Water Boards to abide by and formally articulates an enforceable state goal that no trash be present in any ocean waters, bays, or surface waters of the state by 2030.
In this context, the SWRCB defines trash as “all improperly discarded solid material from any production, manufacturing, or processing operation including, but not limited to, products, product packaging, or containers constructed of plastic, steel, aluminum, glass, paper, or other synthetic or natural materials. This definition includes smaller trash, such as preproduction plastics and other materials.”
What does “no trash” in any waterways mean? A central element of this policy is a land-use based compliance approach to focus trash controls on areas with high trash generation rates. For example, to receive approval for a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit by a Regional Board, a municipality must comply with one of two options that ultimately capture trash before it gets to a waterway. The first option or track 1 is to install, maintain, and operate full capture systems in storm drains to capture trash found in runoff. Track 2 requires permittees to install, operate, and maintain a combination of full-capture trash devices, multi-benefit projects, best management practices (BMPs), or enhance institutional controls (ex. street sweeping). Also, they must demonstrate full-capture equivalency through an implementation plan and annual monitoring and reporting.
Although the SWRCB concluded the most effective way to control trash is to install full trash capture systems within the storm drain system under track 1, they recognized that this may not be feasible in all areas so provided a second track that allows more flexibility.
The municipal permit holders must be in full compliance with the Trash Policy within ten years of the first implementing permit and fifteen years after the effective date of the Trash Policy (i.e. 2030). Overall, the implementation by the Regional Water Board has been slow. Last year, the Central Coast Regional Water Board was the first Regional Water Board to adopt a MS4 permit for the City of Salinas. There was an informational workshop scheduled in April 2020 requiring Regional Board representatives to provide updates on their progress towards Trash Amendment implementation, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 and has not been rescheduled.
It’s important to keep pressure on the State and Regional Water Boards to continue reviewing and adopting these important stormwater permits to ensure that the goal of “no trash” in any ocean waters, bays, or surface waters of the state can be met by 2030. The sooner municipalities implement permits incorporating the Trash Policy, the more trash can be captured before it enters our waterways.