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Catch up on Ry Rivard's three-part investigative series on stormwater pollution
Stormwater flows through Auburn Creek in San Diego. Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Special Report: California's Stormwater Mess

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Across California, there could be thousands or even tens of thousands of businesses dodging environmental rules and sending pollution into the state’s waters. Though an entire regulatory system exists to police businesses and keep water safe for residents and wildlife, the state doesn’t know how many unpermitted businesses are out there, or how much damage they’re doing.

Here are some of the big takeaways Ry Rivard uncovered during his three-part investigative series on stormwater pollution:

The state's system to prevent metals and toxic chemicals from entering streams, bays and the ocean is itself a toxic mess.

Thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of California businesses are polluting streams, bays and the ocean, but state environmental regulators don’t know how many companies are doing how much damage.

Outside environmental groups have become a sort of private police force.

For years, regulators weren’t even reading businesses’ reports about how much pollution was flowing into local waterways. Other businesses evade the system altogether. It’s all given rise to a private police force of local attorneys and environmentalists who comb through government records, looking for businesses to take to court.

Businesses have an incentive to flout the law. The ones that try to comply get burned.

Jerry Williams self-reported stormwater pollution from his business to the state, as required by law. Environmental groups sued over the reports, and as the legal fight dragged on, Williams closed shop. Meanwhile, other businesses flout the law, don’t do the monitoring and likely make more in profit.

Read the Whole Series

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