SAN FRANCISCO — The state regional Water Quality Control Board has unveiled a plan to improve water in San Francisco Bay that includes conducting research into storm runoff and agricultural waste water from the San Joaquin River.
The draft proposed Tuesday would have the board authorize studies into the effect of the runoff and waste water on the quality of the bay water, with a view to future regulations.
"They have been trying to control such things as selenium at the point source while the mother lode of selenium has been coming in through the San Joaquin River," said William Davoren, executive director of the Bay Institute of San Francisco.
The plan would for the first time set upper limits on toxic and heavy metal pollutants that dischargers would be allowed to dump into bay waters. The standards generally follow federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
The draft says that all waters "shall be maintained free of toxic substances in concentrations that are lethal or that produce other detrimental responses in aquatic organisms."
Until now, one of the tests for toxicity has been to place stickleback minnows in a tank with one day's discharge from a plant or refinery. If the fish were alive four days later, the discharge was considered safe.
However, environmentalists claim the fish are too hardy.
The draft plan calls for research to find out what organism best measures toxicity.
The draft, a revision of the original San Francisco Bay Basin Plan adopted in 1975, will be aired at a public hearing on Sept. 19 and would not become law until directors of the state Water Quality Control Board approved it.