Site Cleanup Program

The Central Coast Water Board Site Cleanup Program oversees site investigation and cleanup of unauthorized releases of pollutants to soil, soil gas, indoor air, groundwater, surface water, and sediments. Typical cleanup sites include dry cleaners, industrial facilities, above ground storage tanks, refineries, oilfields, pipelines, and fertilizer facilities. Sites managed in the Site Cleanup Program are typically from historical surface spills or subsurface releases (e.g., pipelines, sumps). New sites are discovered because of recent spills, property transactions, detections in drinking water wells, or nearby environmental investigations that indicate there are other sources of pollution. The Site Cleanup Program includes cleanup at Brownfields and other non-federally owned sites. More information about the Site Cleanup Program can be found on the State Water Board Site Cleanup website.

Applicable Regulations, Policies, and Procedures

The Central Coast Water Board has the legal authority to regulate site cleanups via Division 7 of the California Water Code, State Water Board plans and policies, and the Water Quality Control Plan for the Central Coastal Basin (Basin Plan).  The Central Coast Water Board oversees the discharger(s) (i.e., responsible parties, such as past and current operators and property owners) activities pertaining to the cleanup of pollution at sites to ensure that the dischargers clean up and abate the effects of discharges in a manner that promotes attainment of either background water quality, or the best water quality that is reasonable if background levels of water quality cannot be restored.

The following are applicable regulations, policies, and procedures for the Site Cleanup Program:

The Water Code provides authority for the Water Board to require investigation and cleanup of sites with unauthorized pollutant releases.  Water Code section 13267 authorizes the Water Board to require technical reports from suspected dischargers for investigations.

Water Code section 13304 authorizes the Water Board to issue “cleanup and abatement” orders requiring a discharger to cleanup and abate waste “where the discharger has caused or permitted waste to be discharged or deposited where it is or probably will be discharged into waters of the State and creates or threatens to create a condition of pollution or nuisance.”  Water Code Section 13304 also provides that the Water Boards can order responsible parties to provide uninterrupted replacement water service, which may include wellhead treatment, to affected public water suppliers or private well owners. 

State Water Board Resolution No. 92-49 “Policies and Procedures for Investigation and Cleanup and Abatement of Discharges Under Water Code Section 13304”, State Water Board Resolution No. 68-16 “Statement of Policy with Respect to Maintaining High Quality of Waters in California”, and State Water Board Resolution No. 88-63 “Sources of Drinking Water” contain the policies and procedures that all Water Boards follow to oversee and regulate investigations and cleanup and abatement activities resulting from all types of waste discharges or threats of discharges subject to Water Code Section 13304. 

Site Investigation and Cleanup Elements

  1. Preliminary site assessment to confirm the waste discharge and the identity dischargers.  Identify affected or threatened waters of the state and their beneficial uses and develop preliminary information on the nature and vertical and horizontal extent of the discharge.
  2. Soil, soil gas, and water investigation to determine the source, nature, and extent of a discharge with sufficient detail to provide the basis for decisions regarding subsequent cleanup and abatement actions.
  3. Proposal and selection of cleanup action to evaluate feasible and effective cleanup and abatement actions and to develop preferred cleanup and abatement alternatives.
  4. Implementation of cleanup and abatement action of a selected remedy.
  5. Monitoring to confirm short- and long-term effectiveness of cleanup and abatement.
  6. If cleanup is successful, evaluate cleanup site for closure.

Cleanup Levels

The Site Cleanup Program oversees investigation and cleanup from both a technical and regulatory perspective of a wide variety of pollutants that are discharged to the environment.  This applies to various media, such as soil, soil gas, indoor air, groundwater, surface water, and sediments.  As described in State Water Board Resolution 92-49, the goal for all cleanup projects is to attain background levels unless that is not reasonable.  This means that cleanup goals are the same as background levels by default, but if the Central Coast Water Board determines that achieving background levels is not feasible, it may agree to a less stringent cleanup level.  However, the cleanup levels must:

  1. Be consistent with maximum benefit to the people of the State;
  2. Not unreasonably affect present and anticipated beneficial use of such water;
  3. Be the most stringent level that is technologically and economically feasible;
  4. Be stringent enough that it does not pose a threat to public health or safety; and
  5. Not result in water quality less that than prescribed in the Water Quality Control Plan for the Central Coastal Basin (e.g., attain water quality objectives).

The Central Coast Water Board Site Cleanup Program refers to the San Francisco Bay Water Board Environmental Screening Levels (ESLs) to help expedite the identification and evaluation of potential environmental concerns at polluted sites.  The ESLs are conservative screening levels and are used for screening of sites to assess the degree of pollution and the need for further investigation and cleanup.  ESLs are not intended to be cleanup goals.


GeoTracker is a database that stores information for sites that the Water Boards oversee; the database also stores information for cleanup sites that are overseen by cities, counties, and health agencies in the State.  To find a site, enter the site name or city in the search field shown, and click on the box shown on the map that displays at the desired location.  An Advanced Search Tool can also be used to display site(s) of interest using search criteria such as global identification, site/facility name, address, city, zip code, county, site/facility type, cleanup status, and Regional Board.

On January 1, 2005, the State Water Board adopted regulations that required electronic submittal of information (ESI) for reports and soil, soil gas, and groundwater data associated with leaking underground storage tank cases and non-underground storage tank cleanup sites, including Site Cleanup Program sites, military sites, and land disposal sites.  These regulations require responsible parties to electronically submit analytical laboratory data in electronic deliverable format for soil, soil gas, and water samples, site map (i.e., GEO_MAP), boring/well survey information, depth to groundwater, boring logs and well screen intervals, location data (i.e., GEO_XY file), elevation data (i.e., GEO_Z file), and technical reports (e.g. workplans, assessment, and monitoring reports) in portable data format (PDF).

Reimbursement of Water Board Costs

Pursuant to section 13304 of the California Water Code, the Central Coast Water Board is entitled to, and may seek, reimbursement from responsible parties for all reasonable costs actually incurred by the Central Coast Water Board to investigate unauthorized discharges of wastes or to oversee cleanup of such waste, abatement of the effect thereof, or other remedial actions.

Site Cleanup Funding

The Site Cleanup Subaccount Program is a funding program established in 2014 by Senate Bill 445 (Hill, 2014).  It allows the State Water Board to issue grants for projects that address the harm or threat of harm to human health, safety, and/or the environment from polluted surface water and/or groundwater. For more information on the different types of funding mechanisms for Cleanup sites please see the State Water Board website

Recent Announcements / Public Notices

Project website for Buckley Road Community in San Luis Obispo:
Buckley Road Area, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo County, Trichloroethylene Cleanup and Abatement

Contact Information

For questions about the Central Coast Water Board Site Cleanup Program, please contact Greg Bishop at (805) 549-3132 or