Legislative Mandated Reports - 2021

2021 Water Code Section 13385(o) 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:

  1. A compilation of the number of violations of waste discharge requirements in the previous calendar year, including stormwater enforcement violations.
  2. A record of the formal and informal compliance and enforcement actions taken for each violation, including stormwater enforcement actions.
  3. An analysis of the effectiveness of current enforcement policies, including mandatory minimum penalties.

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 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 plants, pulp and paper mills, mines, and fish hatcheries. These facilities are regulated through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. Stormwater 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 surface water discharge. The number of inspections at wastewater facilities increased by 38% from fiscal year (FY) 20/21 to FY 21/22 and by 16% for stormwater facilities. This increase is likely attributable to the loosing up of restrictions post-COVID-19 pandemic.

This section summarizes the violations for the NPDES Wastewater and Stormwater Programs.

There was a 3% increase in the number of violations for wastewater facilities, while there was a 47% increase for stormwater facilities.

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 approximately 75 penalty actions in FY 21/22, which is by far the highest of any of the waterboard programs. The Wastewater Program also issued 118 informal actions in FY 21/22 to address violations. Overall, there was a 30% decrease in enforcement actions taken in FY 21/22 as compared to FY 20/21.

The Stormwater Program issued approximately 17 penalty actions in FY 21/22 and 1,856 formal compliance actions to address reporting violations. The Storm Water Enforcement Act requires a Notice of Noncompliance for reporting violations. The Stormwater Program also issued 3,646 informal actions in FY 21/22 to address other types of violations, like Best Management Practice (BMP) violations that are observed during inspections. There was no change to the number of enforcement actions issued in FY 21/22 compared to FY 20/21. There was a 20% decrease in formal compliance actions and over a 100% increase of informal actions in FY 21/22 compared to FY 20/21.

Wastewater facilities have seen an increase in violations without enforcement, with the percent of unenforced violations going from 55% in 2020 to 67% in 2021. 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. For example, the 2020 13385(o) reports 65% of violations as unenforced for 2020.

The Stormwater program has a low percentage of unenforced violations with approximately 96% of the violations receiving an enforcement response. As noted above, the Stormwater 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), and section 13385.1 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 13385(h) and 13385.1 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 for greater than 30 days. Section 13385(i) requires non-serious, or chronic, effluent violations be subject to a mandatory penalty of $3,000 if there 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 to include enrollees under general NPDES permits. Since 2007, there has been an outstanding seventy percent drop in violations subject to MMPs; reporting violations have decreased dramatically with roughly 40 reporting violations for calendar years 2020 and 2021 compared to the high of 525 reporting violations in 2007.

There were 1,075 violations subject to MMPs in 2021, up from the approximately 950 MMP violations in calendar year 2020. In 2020, three facilities had 50 or more violations subject to MMP. These are Six Flags Magic Mountain in the Los Angeles Region, Corona Wastewater Reclamation Facility #1 in the Santa Ana Region, and Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Los Angeles Region. As of December 29, 2022, 45% of the violations subject to MMP in 2021 have received some level of enforcement and 21% have been fully addressed.

Additional Resources