By Morgan Owen
Los Angeles Downtown News Staff Writer
LA Waterkeeper is moving its offices to downtown LA after spending 30 years in Santa Monica.
According to Executive Director Bruce Reznik, the organization is moving to be closer to government agencies and water-focused groups that make decisions.
“Our work is increasingly centered in downtown Los Angeles, from water agencies like the Metropolitan Water District to regulatory agencies like the Regional Water Board,” Reznik said.
“Water groups have not been regularly present in all these agencies. We want to be closer (to downtown Los Angeles) in order to be present at the town hall and the county council.
Reznik noted that the proximity to downtown LA also brings LA Waterkeeper closer to its environmental justice partners and helps build better relationships with communities most affected by water pollution.
According to the California Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment, downtown Los Angeles’ water pollution level is in the 90th percentile for drinking water contaminants, while Santa Monica is only in the 90th percentile. the 30th percentile. The communities most affected by this pollution are areas that border the LA River and surrounding industrial areas, Reznik said.
In the past, LA Waterkeeper has focused on coastal and marine health, but Reznik said over the years it made more sense to target inland watersheds as the source of many marine pollutants. While he insists the organization will maintain its commitment to protecting coastal and marine health in Santa Monica Bay, the plan is to focus more on social justice campaigns.
LA Waterkeeper is a watchdog organization that focuses on litigation and advocacy to protect LA’s inland and coastal waters. Its mission is to eliminate pollution, ensure healthy ecosystems in Los Angeles’ waterways, and secure low-carbon water supply chains in the region.
A major milestone for the organization came last month when the Los Angeles County Board of Directors approved the third round of funding for the Safe Clean Water program.
Allegedly inspired by the litigation presented by LA Waterkeeper, the Safe Clean Water program focuses on clean water investments that collect and treat stormwater and create nature-based infrastructure for communities in need of green spaces. . The program operates with $280 million per year in perpetuity.
Another example of successful litigation by LA Waterkeeper is a lawsuit it won in 2020 against the State Water Resources Control Board. The lawsuit argued that the agency violated the California Constitution, which prohibits wasteful water waste, by dumping millions of gallons of sewage into the ocean rather than recycling it.
Reznik also wanted to point out that there’s a softer side to the organization, which isn’t just about litigation.
“We also raise awareness. We have programs where we take underserved youth on our boats and patrol our marine protected areas. I think it’s important to do a variety of things, and it also brings you closer to the community,” he said.
While Reznick is very proud of LA Waterkeeper’s successes in tackling pollution, he said it addresses the symptoms, not the causes. That’s why LA Waterkeeper fights to enforce structural changes like the Safe Clean Water program and the Clean Water Act of 1972.
October 18 marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Overall, the act establishes federal regulations to reduce pollution and explicitly protects the public’s rights to clean, workable lakes, rivers and waterways.
The most notable section of the Clean Water Act is the requirement for industries and wastewater treatment plants to obtain permits from the Environmental Protection Agency regulating the amount of pollutants they can discharge.
The impetus for the Clean Water Act came primarily from the Cuyahoga River Fire in 1969, which began when an accumulation of oil waste and debris ignited. The resulting five-story fire demonstrated the level of contaminants in the river, which would have been the most polluted waterway in the country at the time.
The law is enforced by the EPA and state-implemented regulatory agencies. It also creates a framework for organizations like LA Waterkeeper to report violations and pursue legal action. Thanks to the efforts of LA Waterkeeper, 90 industrial facilities in the LA area alone have been brought into compliance with the Clean Water Act.
In a press release celebrating the anniversary, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said the Clean Water Act has “played a transformational role in protecting people’s health and safeguarding our resources.” natural resources for the enjoyment of future generations,” but Reznik said there was still work to be done. do.
When the measure was passed in 1972, it was intended to eliminate all pollution from waterways. Since then, many lakes and rivers that were once too polluted for swimming have improved enough to allow public recreation, but many waterways are still polluted.
“It’s good to celebrate what (the Clean Water Act) has accomplished, but there’s certainly a long way to go to deliver on the promise of clean water,” Reznick said.
Reznik explained that to bring litigation using the Clean Water Act, LA Waterkeeper must demonstrate to the court that members of the public show an interest in the matter. To do this, it seeks the help of its members during hearings and throughout the litigation process.
LA Waterkeeper also relies on its members to report instances of toxic runoff, pollution and other violations of the Clean Water Act through the Community Water Watch program. The program ensures that community members living in areas most affected by industrial pollutants have the knowledge and resources to identify toxic runoff and trains members to conduct water quality sampling in these areas.
But the little things matter too, Reznik said. Trying to reduce water usage, replacing your property’s green spaces with more native vegetation, and remembering that storm drains aren’t treated for pollutants makes a difference, he said.
“In an area of 10 million people, if everyone did a little better at using less water and a little better at not putting things down the storm drain, that would have a huge impact. But I think that ‘it’s important for the public to make their voices heard,’ said Reznik.
“Be a voice for clean water, resilient water, and a more sustainable and equitable future for LA.”