In a broad-based plan to battle pollution in the troubled Santa Monica Bay and other waterways, Assemblyman Tom Hayden has called for tougher restrictions on ocean dumping and the formation of a multimillion-dollar toxic research facility.
Hayden, in a legislative package unveiled here this week, said the state also should centralize authority for analyzing toxic health risks, increase public disclosure of ocean conditions and obtain emergency funds for fish studies.
Expects Some to Pass This Year
The action was spurred by pollution problems in Santa Monica Bay, but Hayden (D-Santa Monica) said the bulk of the legislation introduced in Sacramento last week would apply statewide. He said he expects some of the bills to pass this year although others may require "years" of discussion and modification.
"The state's waters are ailing from toxic overdose," Hayden said. "And this is a chance to begin a new environmental era. I hope some of these proposals will become law this session. But they all have an urgency."
Hayden's bills call for substantial changes in the way the state monitors and regulates ocean pollution. Earlier this week, Hayden joined eight other Democratic legislators in supporting a wide range of anti-pollution measures.
The assemblyman said lawmakers have realized that Santa Monica Bay and other waterways "can no longer be treated like a sewer" for toxics and garbage. "There are major changes in public opinion and policy. But there is a long way to go. And I've found in the course of my investigation that this is a statewide coastal problem."
Involved in Yearlong Study
As the head of a special Assembly task force formed by Speaker Willie Brown, Hayden has been involved in a yearlong study of contamination in Santa Monica Bay. He called a recommendation for a new marine pollution research facility the "jewel" in his plan.
He said the facility would oversee the study of ocean pollution between Monterey Bay and La Jolla. It would be run by the California State University system and would be located near Santa Monica Bay, with $2 million in start-up funds coming from existing state and federal sources, Hayden said.
"My feeling is that we haven't been served well by any past research, and I felt we should bring the university system in," Hayden said. "There is no research facility in the whole state that only focuses on the ocean."
Policy Against Dumping
Another Hayden bill proposes changes in the state's ocean plan. Since 1972, Hayden said the state Water Resources Control Board has adopted three water quality plans that permitted dumping in areas more than three miles offshore. He said the state should have a "clear public policy" against any dumping that poses a threat to human health or indigenous marine life.
In a third bill, Hayden asks that the Department of Health Services be designated the central agency for assessing marine pollution health risks, a job currently shared by several agencies. The bill also would require the department to develop a health risk assessment program, create local citizen advisory committees and certify the work of toxic testing laboratories.
"This came in response to my finding that no one is in charge," Hayden said. "It would provide for a uniform program of monitoring and testing (pollution). It would also put the Department of Health Services in the role of lead agency to underscore that it's health we're concerned with. Not just fish in the sea, but the fish on your table."
Funds for Fish Study
A fourth bill seeks emergency funding for an initial fish contamination study. Hayden said the federal government already has allocated $1.5 million for the program, but has not transferred the money to the state. As an interim measure, Hayden asks that the state make an emergency loan to the Department of Health Services, which needs about $350,000 to start the program.
Hayden also proposes a bill that would require designated government employees to "disclose information on toxic discharges which could cause substantial injury to the public health or safety." Anyone violating the law could be fined $5,000 to $25,000 and could face a year in jail.
A sixth bill would require that the state notify fishermen about toxic conditions in sea life. The Department of Fish and Game would be required to provide information on any human health advisories and a listing of fish that exceed federal standards for toxic contamination.
A seventh bill would make it mandatory that officials report all toxic spills to the public.