By the Environmental Defense Center
The Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) reached a final settlement with the City of Lompoc over ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act caused by the City’s operation of its municipal wastewater treatment facility. Evidenced by the City’s own reports, EDC discovered that the City has been discharging water contaminated with toxic pollutants for over twenty years into the San Miguelito Creek and the Santa Ynez River. These discharges threaten public recreation opportunities and impact downstream water quality and the health of the Santa Ynez River ecosystem, which is important to snowy plovers and other shorebirds, along with endangered steelhead that travel through the River estuary to the ocean and back upstream to spawning grounds as part of their lifecycle.
EDC’s settlement will force the City to comply with its permit requirements under the Clean Water Act, including those requiring ongoing monitoring and studying to ensure discharges comply with its permit’s toxicity requirements, which are necessary to protect the water quality of the watershed for the community. The settlement also requires the City to pay $260,000 to the Rose Foundation for the purpose of providing grants for restoration projects in the Santa Ynez watershed. The City will also be required to conduct additional tests for chronic toxicity and to notify EDC of any future violations of its permit, in which case, the City will be required to pay a stipulated penalty of $3,000 which will also go to the Foundation for watershed restoration projects.
“After more than twenty years of discharging polluted water into our communities’ watershed, we are very pleased that the City has at last committed to complying with the Clean Water Act and will clean up its polluted discharges and take its monitoring program seriously,” stated Alicia Roessler, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Defense Center. “The settlement also provides for a substantial fund strictly dedicated to on-the-ground projects that will restore the affected Santa Ynez River watershed.”
On September 11, 2020, EDC initially raised its concerns about the City’s violations of the Clean Water Act in a 60-day “Notice of Intent to Sue” and shortly thereafter, on February 24, 2021, EDC filed a lawsuit in federal court. On April 5, 2022, the Court granted in part EDC’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Liability, finding that the City of Lompoc was liable for 86 violations of the Clean Water Act.
“After the Court’s ruling, the City’s liability for polluting the creek and river ecosystem was no longer a question,” stated Alicia Roessler. “We feel confident that this lawsuit will have a positive impact on how the City manages its discharges and will go a long way to cleaning up the watershed for the entire community.”
EDC has a long history working to ensure industrial facilities and agencies comply with the Clean Water Act and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting program. Our attorneys work to identify and address water pollution problems within EDC’s tri-county service area, with a particular emphasis on coastal rivers and watersheds.
EDC is represented in this action by its in-house staff attorneys and Michael Lozeau and Rebecca Davis of Lozeau Drury LLP.
The Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has empowered community-based organizations to advance environmental protection. Program areas include climate and energy, and protecting clean water, the Santa Barbara Channel, and open space and wildlife. Learn more about EDC at www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org.
Lozeau Drury L.L.P. is an environmental law firm representing non-profit environmental and recreational groups, labor organizations, neighborhood associations, and Indian tribes in their efforts to create and protect livable neighborhoods and cities, clean up air and water pollution, protect endangered species, protect open spaces, reduce exposures to toxic pollutants, and create clean, safe jobs. www.lozeaudrury.com