Tom Butt for Richmond City Council The Tom Butt E-Forum About Tom Butt Platform Endorsements of Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt Accomplishments Contribute to Tom Butt for Richmond City Council Contact Tom Butt Tom Butt Archives
  E-Mail Forum
  Water Board Finds Richmond's Stormwater Program Worst in County
January 8, 2005

Stormwater pollution is now the major source of pollutants to surface water bodies in the Bay Area. To deal with this the State and Regional Boards have issued NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits that require implementation of certain actions (BMPs or Best Management Practices) to control the pollutants in stormwater.


The San Francisco Bay Region of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued municipal stormwater permits to urbanized areas. These permits require local governments to implement certain practices, for example public education (e.g. storm drain stenciling), municipal activities (e.g. street sweeping), monitoring, local commercial/industrial inspections, and new development review. In Contra Costa County, the Permit CA0029912 and Board Order 99-058 covers 18 governmental jurisdictions, one of which is the City of Richmond.


In October 2004, the Board conducted a program evaluation of the 18 Contra Costa County jurisdictions and found numerous significant permit violations and program deficiencies primarily in three cities: Concord, Pittsburg and Richmond.


Of the 20 significant permit violations and program deficiencies listed in the executive summary of the Program Evaluation Report, by far the largest number, fifteen, were identified with Richmond. In fact, thirteen of the fifteen applied only to the City of Richmond, as follows:


  1. The cities have not developed separate management plans or implementation strategies to better fit the site specific needs, characteristics and priorities of each community.
  2. All of the communities evaluated will require additional training and guidance on the new C.3 provisions for new development and redevelopment projects.
  3. The City of Richmond compiles its Annual Report Form without adequate evaluation and assessment of its BMPs.
  4. Very few of Richmond top management and elected officials are fully aware of the stormwater program.
  5. The City of Richmond’s Municipal Code apparently does not allow the City to take enforcement action against industries that are not issues either pretreatment or City-issued stormwater permits.
  6. City of Richmond staff acknowledged that a Illicit Discharge Control Plan had been developed a while ago and that it is not currently followed.
  7. The City of Richmond Planning Department is not using CEQA and mitigation measures to address stormwater quality.
  8. City of Richmond staff were not fully aware of new development requirements required by the current Order 99-058.
  9. The City of Richmond Planning Department does not provide outreach to the development community and does not have any manuals to be used by staff.
  10. In the City of Richmond, all phases of construction are inspected; however, building inspectors do not currently include stormwater quality as a part of their building inspection activities.
  11. A SWPP for the City of Richmond’s municipal yard has not been developed.
  12. Inspection of the City of Richmond’s municipal yard revealed many sources of pollutants not adequately addressed by BMPs.
  13. A wash bay at the City of Richmond’s municipal yard was directly connected to the storm drain.
  14. City of Richmond officials regularly attend only one public event annually.
  15. The City of Richmond does not have a database to rack its public education and outreach activities.


City of Richmond departments responsible for the permit violations and program deficiencies include Planning, Building Regulations and Public Services.


Some examples of details in the twelve pages of Richmond-specific critique in the report that caught my attention include:


  • “Staff has not provided (or been allowed to provide) any real outreach to the Council or top management (City Manager, Assistant City Managers and Department Heads) to educate them about the stormwater program. Most do not understand the regulatory requirements or potential liability to the City for failing to comply.”
  • “The amount of the [City’s stormwater] fee was based on cost estimates developed in 1992 and may not be reflective of the current costs for the program.”
  • “According to City representatives during the audit, this [budgeting] procedure may have resulted in some departments not conducting their required activities for the stormwater program by claiming they were not funded when in fact they simply did not want to do the paperwork to be reimbursed.”
  • “The Planning Department indicated they did not have adequate legal authority to require new developments requirements at this time; however, Sections 12.22.060 and 12.22.980.d of the Richmond Municipal Code provides the City with authority to require BMPs for new development and redevelopment projects. Section 12.22.020.b of the Code defines the term BMP, which includes treatment of stormwater discharges to reduce pollutants in runoff. It is recommended that the City revise its CEQA review process to evaluate the effects of new development on stormwater runoff.”
  • “During the past year the City had not issued any enforcement orders against construction sites. Given the general rate of noncompliance with the State of California’s general construction permit throughout the State, it does not seem reasonable that all construction sites within the City were fully compliant with City and State construction requirements.”


The one bright spot for Richmond in the report involved the City’s Industrial Pretreatment Program (IPP), which inspects both sanitary and stormwater discharges of certain commercial businesses. The report noted, “While the program is clearly understaffed and budgeted, the Industrial Pretreatment Program (IPP) for the City has taken on a considerable amount of responsibility to ensure the industrial inspection (IC/ID) and public education programs continue to be implemented.” This program is run by Steven Friday, who should have been awarded some “roses” in my 2004 Year End Review. That correction is hereby made.


There will be a City Council study session on the stormwater program on January 18, 2005, which will focus on needed revisions to City ordinances related to stormwater. At the February 22, 2004, City Council meeting, staff will respond with a status report on each deficiency and violation and provide an action plan for resolution.


The criticisms in the report include several concerns I have voiced for a long time:


  • The City of Richmond practice of leaving enforcement to State agencies when, in fact, the City should be taking an active role itself. See Permit Questions Raise New Campus Bay Concerns By RICHARD BRENNEMAN, in yesterday’s Berkeley Daily Planet.
  • The City of Richmond practice of not using CEQA review and mitigation monitoring to enforce water and air related regulations for development projects.


Copies of the Program Evaluation Report may be obtained from Christine Boschen at 510/622-2346, email cboschen@waterboards.ca.gov.