Site Restoration Unit

San Diego - Site Cleanup Program (SCP)

Program Overview

The San Diego Water Board's Site Cleanup Program (SCP) provides regulatory oversight for investigation and cleanup of polluted sites where recent or historical releases of pollutants to the environment have occurred. Affected media may include soil, groundwater, surface water, and sediment, air, or any combination thereof. Sites regulated by the SCP are varied and include, but are not limited to, dry cleaners, aerospace manufacturing facilities, plating facilities, ship and boat yards, industrial facilities, bulk transfer facilities, redevelopment or Brownfields areas, and some petroleum spill sites. The types of pollutants encountered at sites are diverse and include solvents, pesticides, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and fuel constituents.

The San Diego Water Board has legal authority to regulate cleanup sites via Division 7 of the California Water Code (WC), State Board plans and policies, and the San Diego Region Basin Plan. The Board oversees responsible parties' (RP) activities to address pollution at sites to ensure that they clean up and abate the effects of discharges in a manner that promotes attainment of either background water quality or the best water quality that is reasonably attainable if background water quality cannot be restored.

Cleanup levels at SCP sites are established based on site-specific conditions and requirements of Statewide Cleanup and Abatement Policy Resolution No. 92-49.

Funding Mechanisms for Cleanup Sites

There are four main funding mechanisms for SCP sites: (1) voluntary investigations and cleanups executed and funded by the RP, (2) Cleanup and Abatement Order cleanups executed and funded by the RP, (3) Site Cleanup Subaccount Program- (SCAP) funded cleanups, and (4) Brownfield cleanups executed using available grants and loans.

  1. Voluntary Cleanup
    The majority of SCP sites are voluntary arrangements in which the RP voluntarily performs the investigation and cleanup by entering into a cost recovery program. The RP agrees to and signs an acknowledgement form stating its intent to pay Board staff oversight costs; in return, the RP receives help from San Diego Water Board staff in cleaning up the site to regulatory standards. A unique account is set up and managed by the State Water Board for the RP where San Diego Water Board staff charges their time for oversight work. Cost recovery invoices are issued quarterly to RPs. Investigation, cleanup and abatement, and cost recovery authority is provided in WC sections 13267, 13304, and 13365.
  2. Issuance of a Cleanup and Abatement Order
    Sometimes, an enforcement action is taken by the San Diego Water Board to require the RP to clean up the discharge of wastes. WC section 13304 authorizes the Board to issue a Cleanup and Abatement Order (CAO) requiring an RP to clean up and abate wastes. If the Board issues a CAO, the order provides the basis for reimbursement of State Water Board and San Diego Water Board oversight costs.
  3. Site Cleanup Subaccount Program (SCAP)
    SCAP is a relatively new funding program established in 2014 by Senate Bill 445 (Hill, 2014). It allows the State Water Board to issue grants to a RP who lacks funding for projects that address the harm or threat of harm to human health, safety, and/or the environment from polluted soil, surface water, and/or groundwater. Eligibility for funding under the SCAP is determined on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Grants and Loans for Brownfield Sites
    Brownfields are underutilized properties where reuse is hindered by the actual or suspected presence of pollution or contamination. Cleanup and redevelopment of these sites benefits the environment and communities by eliminating pollution and contamination problems, allowing economic growth, and revitalizing neighborhoods. Refer to the Brownfields website for the various grant and loan programs that are available to help assess and clean up Brownfield sites in California.

Site Cleanup Program Database

The GeoTracker database is the storehouse of information for sites that the Regional Water Boards oversee. The database also stores information for cleanup sites that are overseen by cities, counties, and health agencies in the State. To find a site, enter the site name or city in the search field shown, and click on the box shown on the map that that corresponds to the desired location. The advanced search tool displays site(s) of interest using search criteria such as global identification number, site/facility name, address, city, zip code, county, site/facility type, cleanup status, and/or Regional Board.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) database, Envirostor, is similar to the Water Boards' GeoTracker database and can be accessed to view cleanup sites; the database contains sites that are primarily overseen by DTSC.