Legislative Mandated Reports
2019 Water Code Section 13385(0) Enforcement Report
This report meets the requirements in section 13385(o) of the California Water Code to continuously report and update enforcement information for the implementation of the Clean Water Act. This report includes a compilation of the number of violations of waste discharge requirements in the previous calendar year, a record of the formal and informal compliance and enforcement actions taken for each violation, and an analysis of the effectiveness of current enforcement policies, including mandatory minimum penalties.
California Water Code Section 13385(o)
The state board shall continuously report and update information on its Internet Web site. The state board shall report annually on or before December 31 regarding its enforcement activities. The information shall include all of the following:
The Water Boards use the California Integrated Water Quality System (CIWQS) database to track information about places of environmental interest, manage permits and other orders, track inspections, and manage violations and enforcement activities. The Storm Water Multiple Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTS) database tracks similar information for the Storm Water Program. These two databases are used to compile the information in the 13385(o) report.
Most of the tables in this report are available for continuous public use through the State Water Board’s Internet site. Public reports allow the public to access violation and enforcement data that is updated daily from all dischargers regulated by the Water Boards and gives the user control over how to sort and filter this data to meet specific information needs.
Wastewater facilities discussed in this report are those facilities that are permitted to discharge pollutants to surface waters, including: sewage treatment plants, food processors, oil refineries, power plant cooling waters, pulp and paper mills, mining operations, and fish hatcheries. These facilities are regulated through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. Storm water facilities in California are also regulated through NPDES permits and fall into three categories: construction, industrial, and municipal.
The number of major and minor wastewater facilities continues to decrease as dischargers find alternatives to discharging to surface waters. The number of inspections at wastewater facilities decreased by 10% from calendar year 2018 to 2019 and there was a 3.5% increase in stormwater inspections in 2019.
This section summarizes the violations for the NPDES Wastewater and Storm Water Programs.
For wastewater facilities, 2019 saw a shift from the decreasing violation trend. There were 3,492 violations in 2019, which was a 15% increase in the number of violations from 2018 to 2019.
Storm water facilities have seen a consistent amount of violations since 2011. In 2019, there was a 3% decrease from 2018.
This section presents information on formal and informal compliance and enforcement actions taken for each violation. The Water Boards use progressive enforcement by addressing some violations with an informal response such as a phone call or staff enforcement letter, and if needed, a formal enforcement action based on statute. If violations continue, the enforcement response can be escalated to increasingly more formal and serious actions until compliance is achieved.
The enforcement response for facilities regulated under the NPDES program is higher than other programs, in part due to requirements to impose mandatory minimum penalties for certain types of NPDES violations. The Wastewater Program issued 91 penalty actions in fiscal year 19/20, which is by far the highest of any of the waterboard programs. The Wastewater Program also issued 169 informal actions in fiscal year 19/20 to address violations.
The Storm Water Program issued 23 penalty action in fiscal year 19/20 and a large number of formal compliance actions to address reporting violations. The Storm Water Enforcement Act requires a Notice of Noncompliance for reporting violations. The Storm Water Program also issued 1,335 informal actions in fiscal year 19/20 to address other types of violations, like Best Management Practice (BMP) violations that are observed during inspections.
Wastewater facilities have seen a relative increase in violations without enforcement; 2,207 unenforced violations in calendar year 2019, up from 1,604 unenforced violations in 2018. Part of the increase may be explained by the time gap before a violation is addressed with an enforcement action, particularly for penalty actions, which helps to explain the relative increase in unenforced violations for the most recent year of data.
The Storm Water program has a low percentage of unenforced violations with approximately 94 percent of the violations receiving an enforcement response. As noted above, the Storm Water Program relies on formal compliance actions for reporting violations and uses informal enforcement actions to address other types of violations.
Mandatory Minimum Penalties
This section provides an analysis of the effectiveness of Mandatory Minimum Penalties (MMPs). Mandatory penalty provisions are required by California Water Code section 13385(h) and (i) for specified violations of NPDES permits. For violations that are subject to mandatory minimum penalties, the Regional Boards must either assess an Administrative Civil Liability (ACL) for the mandatory minimum penalty or assess an ACL for a greater amount.
California Water Code Section 13885(h) requires that a mandatory minimum penalty of $3,000 be assessed by the Regional Board for each serious violation. Serious violations include significantly exceeding effluent limits and failure to submit a monitoring report. Chronic effluent violations are also subject to a mandatory penalty if there are four or more of them in a six-month period.
The link above compiles MMP violations and enforcement actions since the inception of the requirement in 2000. MMPs for late reports began in 2004 with the addition of California Water Code section 13385.1. The increase in reporting violations in 2006 was brought about by a change in the statute. Since 2006, there has been an outstanding seventy percent drop in violations subject to MMPs. In particular, reporting violations have decreased dramatically with approximately twenty reporting violations for each of the last few years compared to the high of 532 reporting violations in 2007.
Unlike in recent years, where the number of violations subject to MMPs has decreased, calendar year 2019 saw a sharp increase from 919 MMP violations in 2018 to 1,479 MMP violations in 2019. Four facilities which had 100 or more violations subject to MMP are largely responsible for this uptick. These are San Juan Bautista WWTP in the Central Coast Region, Six Flags Magic Mountain in the Los Angeles Region, Mountain House WWTP in the Central Valley Region, and Henry N. Wochholz WWRF in the Santa Ana Region. As of December 17, 2020, 48% of the violations subject to MMP in 2019 have received some level of enforcement and 24% have been fully addressed.