Bay Protection and Toxic Cleanup Program - (BPTCP)

BPTCP Description


California Water Code, Division 7, Chapter 5.6 established a comprehensive program within the SWRCB to protect the existing and future beneficial uses of California's enclosed bays and estuaries. SB 475 (1989), SB 1845 (1990), and AB 41 (1989) added Chapter 5.6 [Bay Protection and Toxic Cleanup (Water Code Sections 13390-13396.5)] to Division 7 of the Water Code. The BPTCP has provided a new focus on the SWRCB and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs) efforts to control pollution of the State's bays and estuaries by establishing a program to identify toxic hot spots and plan for their cleanup.

Program Activities

The BPTCP has four major goals: (1) protect existing and future beneficial uses of bay and estuarine waters; (2) identify and characterize toxic hot spots; (3) plan for the prevention and control of further pollution at toxic hot spots; and (4) develop plans for remedial actions of existing toxic hot spots and prevent the creation of new toxic hot spots.

The BPTCP is a comprehensive effort by the SWRCB and RWQCBs to programmatically link standards development, environmental monitoring, water quality control planning, and site cleanup planning. The Program includes seven primary activities:

    1. Development and amendment of the California Enclosed Bays and Estuaries Plan. This plan should contain the State's water quality objectives for enclosed bays and estuaries, and implementation measures for these objectives.

    2. Development and implementation of regional monitoring programs designed to identify toxic hot spots. These monitoring programs include analysis for a variety of chemicals, toxicity tests, measurements of biological communities, and various special studies to support the Program.

    3. Development of a consolidated database that contains information pertinent to describing and managing toxic hot spots.

    4. Development of narrative and numeric sediment quality objectives for the protection of California enclosed bays and estuaries.

    5. Preparation of criteria to rank toxic hot spots that are based on the severity of water and sediment quality impacts.

    6. Development of Regional and Statewide Toxic Hot Spot Cleanup Plans that include identification and priority ranking of toxic hot spots, identification of pollutant sources, identification of actions already initiated, strategies for preventing formation of new toxic hot spots, and cost estimates for recommended remedial actions.

    7. Implementation of a fee system to support all BPTCP activities. As of January 1, 1998, the BPTCP is no longer supported by annual fees.

Toxic Hot Spot Identification

The Water Code defines toxic hot spots as locations in enclosed bays, estuaries, or the ocean where pollutants have accumulated in the water or sediment to levels which (1) may pose a hazard to aquatic life, wildlife, fisheries, or human health, or (2) may impact beneficial uses, or (3) exceed SWRCB or RWQCB-adopted water quality or sediment quality objectives.

To identify toxic hot spots, water bodies of interest have been assessed on both a regional and site-specific basis. Regional assessments require evaluating whether water quality objectives are attained and beneficial uses are supported throughout the water body. In the past, the State Mussel Watch program, independent RWQCB studies, and other studies were used extensively to evaluate beneficial use impacts in many California enclosed bays and estuaries. The BPTCP efforts continue this work by focussing on measures of effects (such as toxicity) with the associated pollutants.

Generally, where sites were not well characterized, regional monitoring programs have been implemented. This monitoring activity has been performed by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) under contract with the SWRCB. The consolidated statewide database required by the Water Code was planned to eventually include all data generated by the regional monitoring programs.

Ranking Criteria

The Water Code (Section 13393.5) requires the SWRCB to develop criteria for ranking toxic hot spots. The ranking criteria must consider the pertinent factors relating to public health and environmental quality. The factors include three considerations: (1) potential hazards to public health, (2) toxic hazards to fish, shellfish, and wildlife, and (3) the extent to which the deferral of a remedial action will result, or is likely to result, in a significant increase in environmental damage, health risks, or cleanup costs.

Sediment Quality Objectives

State law defines sediment quality objectives as "that level of a constituent in sediment which is established with an adequate margin of safety, for the reasonable protection of beneficial uses of water or prevention of nuisances" (Water Code Section 13391.5). Water Code Section 13393 further defines sediment quality objectives as: "...objectives...based on scientific information, including but not limited to chemical monitoring, bioassays or established modeling procedures." The Water Code requires "adequate protection for the most sensitive aquatic organisms." Sediment quality objectives can be either numerical values based on scientifically defensible methods or narrative descriptions implemented through toxicity testing or other methods.

Toxic Hot Spot Cleanup Plans

The Water Code requires that each RWQCB must complete a toxic hot spot cleanup plan and the SWRCB must prepare a statewide consolidated toxic hot spot cleanup plan. To facilitate the development of these plans, the SWRCB began the development of a water quality control policy with guidance to the RWQCBs for consistent implementation of the BPTCP.

Each cleanup plan must include: (1) a priority listing of all known toxic hot spots covered by the plan; (2) a description of each toxic hot spot including a characterization of the pollutants present at the site; (3) an assessment of the most likely source or sources of pollutants; (4) an estimate of the total costs to implement the cleanup plan; (5) an estimate of the costs that can be recovered from parties responsible for the discharge of pollutants that have accumulated in sediments; (6) a preliminary assessment of the actions required to remedy or restore a toxic hot spot; and (7) a two-year expenditure schedule identifying State funds needed to implement the plan.

Within 120 days from the ranking of a toxic hot spot in a regional cleanup plan, each RWQCB is required to begin reevaluating waste discharge requirements for dischargers who have contributed any or all of the pollutants which have caused the toxic hot spot. These reevaluations shall be used to revise water quality control plans wherever necessary. Reevaluations shall be initiated according to the priority ranking established in cleanup plans.

Legislative Deadlines

Recent legislation [SB 1084 (1993)] extended Program funding through 1998, the deadline for the Regional Toxic Hot Spot Cleanup Plans to 1998 and the Statewide Cleanup Plan until 1999 (Table 1); excluded agricultural dischargers from paying fees; created the BPTCP Advisory Committee; and mandated completion of an epidemiology study (a health effects study of swimming near storm drains at southern California beaches). AB 385 (1993) allowed an exemption for certain types of dischargers that create habitat for wildlife.

Table 1: Water Code-mandated deadlines for the BPTCP

Activities Deadline
Sediment Quality ObjectivesWorkplan July 1, 1991
Consolidated Database January 1, 1994
Ranking Criteria Janaury 30, 1994
Progress Report Janaury 1, 1996
Regional Cleanup Plans Janaury 1, 1998
Statewide Cleanup Plan June 30, 1999