The EPA has approved the State Water Resources Control Board’s new water quality standards for trash in California’s waters. The standards are part of the state’s new Trash Control Policy, designed to keep trash out of bodies of water, including streams, lakes, coastal and ocean waters, to protect people and the environment. The presence of trash in waters also jeopardizes human health and safety, and impedes recreational, navigational, and commercial activities; as much as 80% of the trash that ends up as marine debris is generated on land, the EPA says.
This trash capture approach has already proven successful in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Regions. The Los Angeles Region has waterbodies, including the L.A. River, that will approach the zero trash standard in 2016. The recently updated San Francisco Bay stormwater permit has a target date of 2022 for zero trash, having already passed its 40 percent reduction milestone.
EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, Jared Blumenfeld, calls California’s new water quality standards “a bold step towards keeping millions of pounds of trash each year out of our inland, coastal and ocean waters.” The statewide policy relies on approaches that will ensure trash is removed early before it enters the storm water system, including the installation of full trash capture systems in the storm drains of areas that generate large amounts of garbage, or the use of equivalent devices coupled with programs such as increased street sweeping and educational outreach, according to the state’s water board chair, Felicia Marcus.
The trash policy provides a phased approach to eliminate trash in California’s waters by 2026.