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The Region | ENVIRONMENT: WATER POLLUTION

EPA Plan Would Stem Toxins That Flow Into Newport Bay

Goal is to open the highly polluted water to swimming by 2013 and fishing by 2019. Runoff, street sweeping and residents' use of common pesticides may be affected.

April 13, 2002|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some homeowners and nurseries probably will have to restrict or eliminate their use of some common pesticides under a complex plan, released Friday, that seeks to stem the flow of 14 toxic pollutants into Newport Bay.

The plan, made public by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also might affect how often streets must be swept and compel businesses to keep contaminated water from running into storm drains in an effort to clean the bay of pesticides and metals.

Parts of the bay have been off-limits for swimming and shellfish harvesting for nearly three decades. Plans to cut down on fecal coliform and other pollutants already are in place. Officials hope that those plans, combined with the new one, will open the bay to swimming by 2013 and to taking shellfish by 2019.

The plan for pesticides and metals must be finalized by the EPA before taking effect. It affects cities, homes and businesses in the bay's 154-square-mile watershed, which extends miles up the San Diego Creek, through parts of eight Orange County cities, including Irvine, Tustin and Orange. Within the watershed are three large wholesale nurseries in eastern Orange County.

The plan lays out how much of each pollutant the bay can handle, and then allocates quotas to various sources, such as nurseries, streets and residential areas.

These pollution limits are the result of Newport Beach-based Defend the Bay's lawsuit against the EPA, and are among the first wave of more than 1,000 such plans throughout the state.

"This is part of a consent decree filed in '96. It's been a long time waiting," said Bob Caustin, founder of Defend the Bay.

"I'm just thankful they have taken the ball and established [the limits] and given us something to work with," he said.

The proposal released Friday sets limits on diazinon and chlorpyrifos, among other pesticides.

Under EPA rules, most diazinon use is being phased out nationwide, and chlorpyrifos use is being halved in coming years. However, the plan says, " ... additional measures appear to be necessary to achieve the reductions" needed to cleanse the bay.

Dave Kiff , assistant city manager in Newport Beach, said that it's possible the plan might prevent people in the watershed from using pesticides or require them to find a way to keep the pollutants from leaving their property.

Nurseries have been gearing up to deal with the new limits for three years, said Dave Kabashima, a University of California environmental horticulture advisor in Orange County who has coordinated nurseries' efforts.

Some nurseries have installed computerized irrigation systems to reduce the amount of water that runs off their property. Other nurseries have planted canna lilies, whose roots will suck up excess water.

"They're very well prepared," he said.

Other pollutant limits will probably affect public agencies. For example, cities may have to increase street sweeping or install new filters to stop copper shed from car brakes from entering local waters.

Additionally, Newport Beach will have to deal with some metals and out-of-use pesticides such as DDT that have been trapped in sediment in the bay for more than half a century, possibly by dredging the sediment out or by capping it.

The proposal will be discussed at a public meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Newport Beach City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd. Written comments are due May 28.

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