Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cuses Cal­i­for­nia of wa­ter pol­lu­tion

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By John Flesher

Es­ca­lat­ing its fight with Cal­i­for­nia, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cused the state Thurs­day of fail­ing to stop wa­ter pol­lu­tion from such sources as hu­man waste left on the pave­ment by the home­less in big cities like Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco.

San Fran­cisco’s mayor dis­puted any con­nec­tion be­tween home­less peo­ple and wa­ter qual­ity, and she and oth­ers ac­cused Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of us­ing the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency to pun­ish the heav­ily Demo­cratic state.

EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor An­drew Wheeler out­lined a se­ries of al­leged de­fi­cien­cies in Cal­i­for­nia’s com­pli­ance with fed­eral clean wa­ter laws in a let­ter to Demo­cratic Gov. Gavin New­som and de­manded a de­tailed plan for fix­ing the prob­lems within 30 days.

“If Cal­i­for­nia does not step up to its del­e­gated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, then EPA will be forced to take ac­tion,” Wheeler said in state­ment.

The let­ter was the lat­est salvo in a feud be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tion and Cal­i­for­nia, which has filed more than 50 law­suits op­pos­ing Trump ini­tia­tives on the en­vi­ron­ment, im­mi­gra­tion and health care.

Last week, Trump warned that San Fran­cisco would re­ceive a vi­o­la­tion no­tice for al­legedly let­ting nee­dles and other waste go through storm drains into the Pa­cific Ocean, an al­le­ga­tion Mayor Lon­don Breed de­nied.

“I’m sick of this pres­i­dent tak­ing swipes at our city for no rea­son other than pol­i­tics,” Breed said Thurs­day. “There are no nee­dles wash­ing out to the Bay or ocean from our sewer sys­tem, and there is no re­la­tion­ship be­tween home­less­ness and wa­ter qual­ity in San Fran­cisco. It’s just not a real is­sue.”

Nathan Click, a spokesman for the gov­er­nor, said: “This is not about clean air, clean wa­ter or help­ing our state with home­less­ness. This is po­lit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion against Cal­i­for­nia, plain and sim­ple.”

In his let­ter, Wheeler said ur­ban home­less­ness is tak­ing a toll on the en­vi­ron­ment, cit­ing news re­ports of “piles of hu­man fe­ces” on streets and side­walks.

“The EPA is con­cerned about the po­ten­tial wa­ter qual­ity im­pacts from pathogens and other con­tam­i­nants from un­treated hu­man waste en­ter­ing nearby wa­ters,” he said. “San Fran­cisco, Los An­ge­les and the state do not ap­pear to be act­ing with ur­gency to mit­i­gate the risks to hu­man health and the en­vi­ron­ment that may re­sult from the home­less­ness cri­sis.”

He called on San Fran­cisco to in­vest bil­lions of dol­lars to up­grade its sewage treat­ment sys­tem and stop re­leas­ing in­ad­e­quately treated waste into San Fran­cisco Bay and the Pa­cific, a prac­tice he said state reg­u­la­tors have long al­lowed.

He said an EPA re­view un­cov­ered prob­lems with Cal­i­for­nia’s han­dling of other fed­eral clean wa­ter pro­grams, in­clud­ing 23 sig­nif­i­cant dis­charges of pol­lu­tants in re­cent months that ex­ceeded per­mit lim­its.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also found that the state had 202 com­mu­nity wa­ter sys­tems that ex­ceeded fed­eral stan­dards for the pres­ence of con­tam­i­nants such as ar­senic and lead, putting nearly 800,000 peo­ple at risk, Wheeler said.

Eric Scha­ef­fer, direc­tor of the En­vi­ron­men­tal In­tegrity Project and a for­mer head of civil en­force­ment at EPA, ac­cused the pres­i­dent and Wheeler of us­ing the agency to pun­ish en­e­mies.

“It makes no sense to de­cide that home­less en­camp­ments are a ma­jor pri­or­ity for Clean Wa­ter Act en­force­ment, when EPA has done so lit­tle to en­force il­le­gal dis­charges from much larger sources across the U.S.,” Scha­ef­fer said.

Ear­lier this week, the EPA chief crit­i­cized the Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board for a back­log of pend­ing reg­u­la­tions in­tended to re­duce smog. State of­fi­cials blamed de­lays by Wash­ing­ton in ap­prov­ing the plans.

Last week, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion moved to re­voke Cal­i­for­nia’s decades-old le­gal au­thor­ity to set au­to­mo­bile emis­sion stan­dards tougher than the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s.

JEFF CHIU/AP

San Fran­cisco Mayor Lon­don Breed: “I’m sick of this pres­i­dent tak­ing swipes ... for no rea­son other than pol­i­tics.”

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