The Environmental Protection Agency issued a violation notice to the city of city of San Francisco Wednesday for violating the Clean Water Act. This comes at a time when California is feuding with the federal government over whether or not the state has the right to enact strict emissions standards.
What's the background?
The Trump administration rolled back emissions standards for automobiles that were put into place during the Obama administration. The state wanted to use these standards to pressure auto manufacturers to sell more zero emission vehicles. The Trump administration told California that it had no such authority because all emissions standards needed to be set by the federal government. On Sept. 20, California and 23 other states sued the Trump administration in order to invalidate this decision by the EPA.
On Sept. 26, the EPA accused California of failing to comply with federal standards for air and water pollution. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler blamed these violations on the "state's lack of action in response to the homeless and San Francisco's discharges of inadaquately treated sewage."
What happened now?
On Wednesday, the EPA had sent a "notice of violation" to San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission general manager Harlan Kelly Jr.
In the notice, EPA regional administrator Michael Stoker said, "The failure to properly operate and maintain the City's sewage collection and treatment facilities creates public health risks."
Stoker added, "There have been instances of sewage flowing in the streets and entering people's homes." There was also evidence of "other pollutants of significant concern such as copper, zinc, lead, cyanide and ammonia that can threaten the water quality of the Bay and the ocean."
The notice also said that "the EPA is coordinating with the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region, to ensure that timely and appropriate enforcement action is taken and compliance with permits is achieved."
State lawmakers pushed back
California state Sen. Scott Wiener said in a tweet that the accusations made in the letter were "false claims" and that the sewage system in the city was "a model of sustainability."
San Francisco Mayor London Breed also responded in a statement, according to NBC News, saying that the notice from Stoker was filled with "mischaracterizations, inaccuracies and falsehoods."
"No debris flow out into the Bay or the ocean," Breed said.