For three years in a row, the city of Grover Beach failed to submit annual reports on its stormwater management program to the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The water board sent the city a complaint on June 26, demanding the 2010-2012 reports and threatening a fine of $35,000 for breaching the terms of its federal discharge permit.
Water board Enforcement Coordinator Harvey Packard declined to state, without the benefit of the missing reports, whether the agency also suspected Grover Beach of actually exceeding the permit’s pollution allowances. The city discharges its stormwater into Meadow Creek, which provides vital riparian habitat for Pismo State Beach.
“They did violate their permit by not submitting the reports,” Packard said. “Because they did not submit the reports, we can’t tell if they are violating water quality standards.”
$35,000 or contest the fine at a hearing during the water board’s September public meeting in Santa Barbara. Either way, the city must still hand over the reports as required by the discharge permit.
“My hope is that they’ll start taking the program and the permit seriously,” Packard said.
As of press deadline, Grover Beach City Manager Bob Perrault hadn’t responded to voicemail messages asking for the city’s position on the missing reports and the complaint.
Packard said water board staffers haven’t noticed anything unusual about conditions in Meadow Creek. Although a 2006 study identifies Meadow Creek as prime habitat for the federally listed California red-legged frog, it blames the amphibian’s absence from the waterway on invasive predators, not pollution.
Although Packard would not go so far as to accuse the city of polluting Meadow Creek, the water board complaint seems to question whether Grover Beach ever took any serious steps toward implementing a stormwater management program. According to the complaint, a Grover Beach representative admitted March 14 that the city has no dedicated program staff and has not updated any of its ordinances.
“It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the Discharger’s failure to submit annual reports for the first three years of regulation by the General Permit represents more than just reporting violations,” the complaint reads.