Washing your own car or having sprinklers that splash onto the sidewalk could soon be illegal, due to a proposed new state storm water permit.
The new permit, drafted by the State Water Resources Control Board, is based on a concept of “only rain down the drain.” Planners say they’re attempting to meet federal regulations, but local officials say they’ve gone far beyond the realm of reason.
“The requirements are so prescriptive, I don’t think any business could fully comply,” said Michael Cooke, Turlock regulatory affairs manager.
Charity car washes would effectively become illegal, as suds would wash down storm drains and incur a fine. Owners of sprinklers which cause any water to head down drains would similarly face fines.
Every construction site one acre or larger would need a permit – now 93 pages, up from 20 pages – or face fines.
Existing businesses – not just new developments – would be required to trap garbage on site before it reached drains. And even storm water must be dealt with on site, requiring existing businesses be able to retain ½ inch of rain or a two-year storm before relying on storm drains.
The permitting process requires Turlock to become the enforcer of these new regulations – despite offering no additional funding.
“It’s going to pit Turlock against businesses when enforcing a state regulation,” Cooke said.
Turlock would be forced to inventory every existing business in town, determine their potential to pollute storm water – possibly via gasoline, oil, or general trash –and write up plans for addressing that pollution. Turlock would then be asked to inspect between 500 and 600 businesses annually, to ensure they are meeting the standards.
If implemented, the changes could cost Turlock at least $400,000 per year. Turlock would likely be forced to pay the increased costs from its dwindling General Fund, as property owners would otherwise have to vote to tax themselves for the additional costs.
The storm water permit plan could be done much less expensively with similarly-effective results Cooke said. But rather than identifying problems and then asking cities to find solutions, the plan asks cities to find problems and then offering one-size fits-all solutions.
“They said, ‘These are the fixes, now figure out what the problem is,’” Cooke said. “It’s backwards.”
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