Lawsuit Challenges Regulation of Industrial Pollution to Los Angeles, State Waters

December 8th, 2015

Liz Crosson (Los Angeles Waterkeeper) 541-944-5589; Sara Aminzadeh (California Coastkeeper Alliance) 415-794-8422
Los Angeles Waterkeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance

California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), a coalition of 12 Waterkeeper organizations including Los Angeles Waterkeeper, has filed a lawsuit against the State Water Board for failing to adopt a statewide Industrial Stormwater Permit in accordance with the Clean Water Act. The State Water Board’s action fails to protect millions of people living near and visiting Los Angeles Area rivers and beaches, and waterways throughout the state.

California’s beaches, coastal areas, and rivers are plagued by industrial pollution from landfills, oil refineries, metal recycling facilities, and other industrial facilities. Polluted runoff from industrial facilities can contaminate our waterways with metals such as lead, zinc, copper, and other toxic pollutants. The Los Angeles region has the highest number of industrial facilities in the state. Over 2,500 industrial facilities are permitted under the statewide permit in this region, and LA Waterkeeper has identified dozens that are violating state water quality limits set to protect the environment and public health. In addition, LA Waterkeeper and regulatory agencies have identified an increase in unpermitted rogue facilities that fail to obtain the proper permits for water quality, air emissions, or land use.

“In Los Angeles County, nearly every mile of river and coastline is plagued by pollutants such as fecal bacteria, copper, lead, zinc, arsenic and trash and industrial facilities such as scrap metal yards, waste transfer stations, and auto-dismantlers are a significant source,” said Liz Crosson, Executive Director for Los Angeles Waterkeeper. “The State Water Board is required to adopt a permit that protects California communities and watersheds from highly toxic pollutants.”

On April 1, 2014 the State Water Board concluded a multi-year process to update and adopt a new Industrial Stormwater Permit. However, despite years of legal and technical analysis and advocacy by California Coastkeeper Alliance, San Francisco Baykeeper, Los Angeles Waterkeeper and other partner groups, many aspects of the Permit reflect a step backward from the 1997 Permit.  The new permit does not require monitoring to determine compliance with water quality standards, nor does it incorporate pollution limits for severely degraded waterways as required by the Clean Water Act. CCKA’s lawsuit will require the state agency to implement the Clean Water Act, will hold polluters responsible and will prompt meaningful on-the-ground actions to reduce pollution and restore California’s waterbodies that are unsafe for swimming, drinking, and fishing.

“This is the time when the State Water Board should be requiring closer oversight and increased pollution controls, not weakening protections,” said Sara Aminzadeh, Executive Director for California Coastkeeper Alliance. “We are disappointed that this permit, which is long overdue, fails to push industry forward into a cleaner and more sustainable water future.”

Founded in 1993, Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay and adjacent waters through enforcement, fieldwork, and community action. L.A. Waterkeeper works to achieve this goal through litigation and regulatory programs that ensure water quality protections in waterways throughout Los Angeles County. L.A. Waterkeeper was formerly known as Santa Monica Baykeeper.

California Coastkeeper Alliance unites 12 local Waterkeeper programs to fight for swimmable, fishable and drinkable waters for Californian communities and ecosystems.

Categories: Press Releases, Stormwater, Waterkeepers at Work