For the first time in ten years, the State Water Board is renewing regulations that govern pollution from California's interstates and highways. Baykeeper is fighting for a strong policy to control this major source of pollution to the state's waterways.
Caltrans is responsible under the Clean Water Act for any pollution that is washed from its interstates, highways and maintenance and construction facilities. Storm water runoff from California's highways is highly contaminated with oil, grease, heavy metals and toxins. In an average year, more than six million gallons of oil run into California's waters from our roads and sidewalks1 – the equivalent of more than 110 Cosco Busan spills. Baykeeper's independent investigations have found highway runoff of copper and zinc to be three to ten times above legal limits. Additionally, Caltrans regularly applies pesticides to vegetation along roadsides without adequate measures to prevent runoff to nearby waterways.
Unfortunately, the regulations initially proposed by the State Water Board are woefully inadequate to address this pollution, and Baykeeper has voiced strong opposition. We're advocating that Caltrans should be required to implement feasible methods of mitigation, such as constructing permeable buffers to slow the flow of runoff, and to utilize on-site preventative measures to reduce the flow of pesticides to waterways (as is required by similar statewide regulations). Baykeeper has strongly urged the State Board to correct these deficiencies, and we will be monitoring their next steps.
 California Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Characterization of Used Oil in Stormwater Runoff in California (September 2006), available at: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/water/reports/OilInRunoff0906.pdf.