Placer to regulate water quality in Squaw, Martis Valley | SierraSun.com

Placer to regulate water quality in Squaw, Martis Valley

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Placer County will take a closer look at water quality practices in unincorporated areas of the county, including Squaw Valley and Martis Valley, in an effort to reduce and eliminate contaminants.

Previously, county water quality programs were established only within the Tahoe Basin and on the West slope. The Oct. 22 ordinance gives the county more responsibility in the enforcement of illegal discharges on private and county property throughout Placer’s jurisdiction.

Restaurants, for example, should not wash kitchen mats with grease and food waste in areas where the materials get into the storm drains. New homeowners putting in landscaping should not pile loose dirt where it can be washed away into drain systems. And construction sites should be careful with equipment so it does not carry sediment onto roadways.

Prior to adoption of the ordinance, construction sites in the unincorporated areas were monitored by the state’s water control board. These areas will now be included in the county’s water quality permit issued by the state.

The county plans to increase inspection efforts, where those in violation of best management practices will be verbally warned or formally cited, said Bill Costa, Placer County’s public works manager.

“It’s an added layer of authority to look for and address violations of water quality standards,” Costa said.

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Even before the approved ordinance, Placer County had the authority to prohibit illegal discharges into storm drain systems. But now, the county will be the first line of defense, Costa said.

Residents and businesses generally comply after the first warning, he said. But the county will work with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to enforce the higher fines for those who do not adhere to best management practices and legal dumping regulations, Costa said.

Now that Placer has jurisdiction over all county property, it will monitor the watershed program at every level, from specific inspections to general creek trends, said Lauri Kemper, division manager for the water quality control board.

“Generally it’s more important to get it right at the source,” Kemper said of watershed contaminants.

Keeping oils and sediment out of storm drain systems is critical for water quality because stormwater is not treated before it reaches the waterways. The storm drain system includes catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, pipes and natural and manmade channels that are used to collect or convey stormwater.