EDC Settles Clean Water Act Case Against Toland Landfill
Source: Environmental Defense Center
The Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) reached a final settlement with the Ventura Regional Sanitation District (“VRSD” or “District”) for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) at the Toland Road Landfill near the City of Santa Paula. The Toland Road Landfill discharges storm water runoff directly into O’Leary Creek, which flows into the Santa Clara River and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Clara River is critical to the community’s health and recreation, and is home to numerous endangered species.
EDC’s lawsuit alleged that VRSD, for at least the past five years, had consistently violated California’s permit that protects rivers and streams from polluted storm water runoff from industrial facilities. VRSD’s own sampling reports demonstrated that it discharged storm water containing pollutants, including arsenic and zinc, significantly above water quality limits.
Under the settlement, the District has agreed to improve storm water management practices at its facility, largely by upgrading a large detention basin to capture and minimize polluted storm water runoff. In addition, instead of a penalty, VRSD will donate $75,000 to The Nature Conservancy (“TNC”) for the sole purpose of funding TNC’s on-going invasive species removal in the Santa Clara River Watershed. This project will improve water quality and habitat for aquatic species, as well as reduce a serious fire hazard.
“We are pleased that the Ventura Regional Sanitation District has committed to improve the quality of its storm water runoff and enhance the Santa Clara River watershed by supporting restoration projects,” stated Maggie Hall, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Defense Center. “The settlement will help restore California’s last naturally free-flowing major river, the Santa Clara, which is a critical resource for the local community and wildlife.”
Storm water is among the top sources of water contamination in southern California, as significant quantities of pollution enter our waterways during rain events. Landfills, such as the Toland Road Landfill, receive and process various waste materials that, when conveyed in storm water discharges, pose substantial risk to the environment, human health, and recreation, such as swimming, kayaking, fishing, and surfing at the mouth of the Santa Clara River.
Under California’s “General Permit For Storm Water Discharges Associated With Industrial Activities,” facilities such as the Toland Road Landfill are prohibited from discharging pollutants in excess of water quality standards and without applying the best available and best conventional pollution treatment technologies to their pollution sources.
VRSD is a public waste management agency organized in 1970 and overseen by a nine-member board of directors. Toland Road Landfill, operated by VRSD, receives solid municipal waste from residents of the Santa Clara Valley as well as commercial waste loads processed through Ventura County.
The Santa Clara River provides crucial aquatic ecosystem functions in the region, including groundwater recharge and riparian habitat. The River is home to as many as 17 species listed as threatened or endangered, and includes critical habitat for many species, including the Santa Ana Sucker, Tidewater Goby, Unarmored Threespine Stickleback, California Red Legged Frog, Arroyo Toad, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Least Bell’s Vireo, and the Southern California Steelhead.
EDC was represented in this action by its in-house staff attorneys and Lozeau Drury.