The Proposed IGP TMDL Requirements Pose Unique Challenges to the City of Los Angeles Harbor Department (Port of Los Angeles): A Case Study of the Harbor Toxics Sediment TMDL
State Water Board proposed an amendment to the IGP to incorporate TMDL requirements. The proposed amendment poses unique challenges to the City of Los Angeles Harbor Department (Department). The Department is part of City’s MS4, operates the Port of Los Angeles (Port), and is a landlord (not an owner or operator) of facilities in the Port, who has no direct authority over day-to-day operations at tenant facilities. The first challenge for the Department is balancing the position among being a TMDL responsible party, the landlord of numerous industrial and commercial nearshore facilities, and the recipient of waters originating upstream in the watersheds. As a responsible party in the Harbor Toxics TMDL, the Department has been actively involved in TMDL implementation, has conducted various TMDL special studies, has invested considerable resources and staff for the implementation, and has collaborated with State and Regional Water Board staff, stakeholders, and other responsible parties. The Department has been proactively engaging with the tenants through Tenant Outreach Program to help with their permit compliance and to ensure discharges are as pollutant-free as possible to protect the beneficial uses of Harbor waters. The second challenge is the uniqueness of having a sediment-based TMDL, rather than a water-column based TMDL. The Harbor Toxics TMDLs were established based on sediment quality objectives (SQO), and TMDL compliance demonstration via SQO assessment differs significantly from typical water-column based TMDLs. Unfortunately, the proposed TNALs and NELs for the Harbor Toxics TMDL are based on water-column concentrations and has no direct association with sediment loading of TMDL pollutants. The compliance with these TNALs and NELs at an end-of-pipe of industrial discharges won’t demonstrate the protection and restoration of sediment quality in Harbor waters. Further, the proposed TNALs and NELs are exceedingly low and would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to comply with when no proven BMP technology has been demonstrated to achieve such low levels in storm water. The third challenge is that almost all IGP facilities in the Port are located in the lower portion of a watershed on filled land where the groundwater table is too high for infiltration and available land surface is very limited. Thus, the proposed on-site and off-site options in the amendment are not feasible for any of these facilities.
This case study of the Harbor Toxics Sediment TMDL and IGP facilities in the Port will illustrate that the proposed requirements for the TMDL requires special considerations. The case study will also showcase that the IGP should allow an alternative and adaptive process and off-site projects for compliance demonstration and these are indeed consistent with TMDL’s own methods and the existing IGP’s iterative process.
After a career as a traveling scuba instructor, Rachel McPherson received a degree in Marine Biology from CSULB, where she worked in the genetics laboratory creating sequencing primers. Rachel worked at Hyperion Waste Water Treatment Plant conducting sampling and sorting for NPDES permit compliance in the Oceans Assessment group and at SCCWRP in coastal aerial deposition sampling. Rachel worked for Los Angeles World Airports in all areas of environmental compliance before transferring in 2011 to the Harbor Department. Rachel oversees the Tenant Outreach Program, NPDES permit coordination and compliance internally and with the Dominguez Watershed, and biological resources.
Vada has been working stormwater quality over decades since her Natural Loading Study at SCCWRP. She is currently with Michael Baker International and working on San Diego Bay sediment issues and special studies regarding State’s Trash Amendments.