Our Litigation team works to identify the worst and most egregious water quality violations in Los Angeles County, and then uses one of the most effective and efficient tools we have to protect them–the law. Recognized not only as the defenders of all waterways throughout LA since 1993, we have successfully settled numerous cases that set and enforce the limits on pollution that reaches L.A. County waterways.
Our previous major legal victories include our settlement over beach water pollution with the City of Malibu, a landmark case against the City of Los Angeles which resulted in a dramatic reduction in sanitary sewer overflows, and successful litigation against industrial scrap metal recycling and auto dismantling yards in south Los Angeles forcing industrial facilities to implement measures to control and treat toxic stormwater discharges. We consistently monitor these, and all of our past settlement agreements, to ensure compliance with their terms. Our goal is to provide full protection for the environment through undertaking long-term, sustainable measures to control storm water at each of the sites and cities we have litigated against.
California Sea Otter Case
In December 2012, the US Fish & Wildlife Service finally terminated the “no otter zone”, allowing the California sea otter to return to our coastal waters under the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. Los Angeles Waterkeeper is a key advocate for the “no otter zone”, and our Kelp Project is currently working to restore our underwater ecosystem that has been so negatively affected by the absence of the sea otter. In July 2013, the California Sea Urchin Commissions, together with other fishing industry interest groups, filed a lawsuit challenging the removal of the “no otter zone”, claiming that the sea otter will eat the marine life that they catch for business. As a result of this, our Litigation team, together with The Otter Project and the Environmental Defense Center, has filed a petition to intervene in the case in an effort to defend our marine ecosystem and ensure that the “no otter zone” will be removed.
LA County MS4 Case
In 2008, our Litigation team, along with NRDC, filed this case against LA County and LA County Flood Control District, with the goal of stopping their illegal discharges of polluted storm water through municipal storm drains. After winning the case in the 9th Circuit, LA County petitioned the US Supreme Court for review, and the Court, while not deciding the case on the merits and not making any rulings on their liability for discharging storm water pollution in violation of the Clean Water Act permit, returned the case to the 9th Circuit for further review.
On August 8, 2013 the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled in our favor, finding that the Los Angeles County Flood Control District was liable for discharging storm water pollution in the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers in violation of the MS4 Permit as demonstrated by the County’s own Permit monitoring. The Flood Control District petitioned the 9th Circuit for rehearing but the court denied the petition on September 26, 2013, refusing to re-hear the case. Because of this monumental case, we are one step closer to victory for the LA River and San Gabriel Rivers.
Six Flags Magic Mountain Case
In June, 2012, our Litigation team, together with Ventura Coastkeeper, and Friends of the Santa Clara River, filed a lawsuit against Six Flags Magic Mountain for violations of their individual Clean Water Act Permit and the General Industrial Storm Water Permit by discharging thousands of gallons of untreated storm water and trash into the Santa Clara River and, ultimately, the Pacific Ocean.
In September 2013, Magic Mountain attempted to evade liability for the violations, but was rejected by the District Court. Our claims for violations of the the General Industrial Storm Water Permit will proceed in court soon.
Industrial Facilities Case
In September 2013, we sent notices of intent (NOI) to file Clean Water Act citizen lawsuits to five industrial recycling facilities in the LA area. Our goal is to force the facilities to eliminate their storm water pollution discharges of heavy metals, achieve compliance with water quality standards and industrial benchmarks, and meet the monitoring and reporting requirements of the General Industrial Storm Water Permit.