City officials were willing to take on the job, as they were already monitoring pollution for nearby homeowners.
"I think the consistency is important, and as many property owners that can ride the city's coattails I think is good," Councilwoman Leslie Daigle said at the Jan. 24 council meeting.
State regulators require that property owners or government agencies test water flowing from storm drains, and prevent any discharges that would harm wildlife or humans swimming near the shore.
City officials already pay for a consultant to monitor the drains near Buck Gully and Morning Canyon.
The watershed now covered by the city includes the gated Pelican Point community at the north end of Crystal Cove State Park; portions of the Pelican Hill Golf Course; portions of the Cameo Highlands neighborhood; and the adjacent stretch of East Coast Highway.
This area's excess irrigation water, and other runoff, is pumped into the city's sewer system through a station built and maintained by Irvine Co. It cost about $1 million to build, and the company pays $90,000 per year to maintain the facility, according to Irvine Co. Senior Vice President Dan Miller.
The company wasn't obligated to build the station, according to Garry W. Brown, executive director of Orange County Coastkeeper. His environmental group has advocated for strict water quality protections between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.
"It's probably good to have one consultant to do [the testing]," Brown said. "We just want to make sure that someone's paying."