“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream.” That passage from the Book of Amos (5:24) is the sort of thing lawyers working for nonprofit organizations repeat to themselves before marching off to court to fight the good fight. Of course, it may not be what the lawyers in the latest good fight will be repeating to themselves– and if it is, they may want to specify that justice shouldn't be like the water they are suing over.
Just two days after a sewage overflow in San Clemente caused parts of North Beach to close, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has announced that it is suing the Environmental Protection Agency “for failing to adopt tougher water quality standards to protect beachgoers from waterborne illnesses.” As the Los Angeles Times reports:
The EPA refused to comment on the case, other than to say it is “committed to fully implementing our beach monitoring goals. The agency is focused on using the best science, as it evolves, to deliver the best protection possible for beachgoers.”
Nevertheless, the NRDC alleges in its lawsuit, to be filed today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, that the EPA has missed key deadlines set forth in the Beaches Environmental Assessment, Cleanup and Health Act of 2000, and failed to ensure that ocean water quality is safe.
Specifically, the complaint alleges that the EPA has failed to assess the full range of human illnesses related to beach pollution and all water conditions that contribute to sicknesses. It also alleges that the EPA did not identify all pathogens that pollute coastal waters and failed to devise methods to ensure rapid notification of unhealthful conditions.
Under the law, those tasks were to have culminated in the adoption of new ocean water quality standards by October 2005. Beckman said the NRDC lawsuit is intended to force compliance with the law.
The announcement of the lawsuit comes in conjunction with the release of the NRDC annual “Testing the Waters” report, which assesses levels of pollution at various beaches around the country. (A link to the report in pdf. format can be found here.) OC's beaches are well represented among the report's “Beach Bums”, i.e., places that violated public health standards at least half of the time water samples were taken . Those places in OC where the report says you're more likely to find fecal bacteria overflowing than righteousness are a familiar lot: Aliso Beach; Buck Gully at Newport Beach; Crystal Cove State Park; Doheny State Beach; Salt Creek Beach Park; and Santa Ana Delhi in Newport Bay. You'll notice our latest public chamberpot, San Clemente's North Beach, didn't make the list, but as Angels fans know, there's always next year.