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Judge keeps storm-drain runoff standards in place

An earlier ruling had frozen the rules, preventing builders from getting necessary state permits.

August 29, 2008|Jean Merl | Times Staff Writer

A judge ruled Thursday that water quality standards designed to protect the region's beaches from polluted storm-drain runoff will remain in place, at least for the time being.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thierry Patrick Colaw granted a request from a coalition of environmental groups that sought to keep the standards in place while the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board complied with the judge's order to review its runoff standards.

This summer, Colaw had ruled in favor of a consortium of local inland cities and a building industry association that had filed a lawsuit -- against the state Water Resources Control Board and the local board -- seeking to overturn the regulations.

The local board said the ruling, which applied to most cities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, left regulators without a major tool to deal with storm water runoff into the ocean.

Builders could not get the necessary permits from the state board because the standards had been frozen.

"The court's decision provides much-needed relief and just in time for our Labor Day celebration," Francine Diamond, chairwoman of the local board, said Thursday.

David Beckman, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council representing environmentalists, also hailed the ruling.

"If you drink water or like to swim in the ocean, today was a very good day," Beckman said, adding that the environmental groups would still probably appeal the judge's ruling that the standards be reviewed and modified.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the local board had failed to consider whether the standards could be reasonably met and what economic effect they would have.

The disputed standards were imposed to try to end bacterial contamination at local beaches, some of which are among the most polluted in the state. Pathogens flowing from storm drains into the surf can cause rashes, ear infections and other maladies.

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jean.merl@latimes.com

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