Clean Water Act Dispute on Santa Clara River Settled

April 14, 2016

Industrial Facility Agrees to Enhance Storm Water Management Practices and Establish Santa Clara River Watershed Fund

The Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) and Keller Rohrback L.L.P. reached a final settlement with General Magnaplate California (“General Magnaplate”) to address storm water runoff from its Ventura electroplating facility.  The settlement resolves concerns outlined in EDC’s October 2015 notice letter alleging violations of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) related to the facility’s storm water discharges into the Santa Clara River.

Under the settlement, General Magnaplate has agreed to implement enhanced storm water management measures at its facility in order to ensure that storm water runoff does not contain high levels of pollutants such as zinc and aluminum.  These measures include repairing paved surfaces and installing metal-reducing technology.  In addition, General Magnaplate will contribute $15,000 to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment to be used for future improvements of water quality in the Santa Clara River watershed.

“We are thrilled with the commitments General Magnaplate has made to improve the facility’s storm water management. These efforts will protect water quality in the Santa Clara River, which carries storm water to nearby beaches and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. This watershed is home to important species and critical to the health and recreation of local communities,” said Maggie Hall, Staff Attorney at EDC.

“We are proud to have represented EDC in this matter. The parties worked hard to resolve this dispute in a way that protects water quality,” said Matthew Preusch, an attorney with Keller Rohrback L.L.P. in Santa Barbara.

Storm water pollution occurs when rain water comes into contact with pollutants on the ground and other surfaces and washes into water bodies, and is a leading cause of beach closures annually.  To address this source of pollution, the federal Clean Water Act and the California General Industrial Storm Water Permit impose requirements on industrial facilities such as General Magnaplate to implement practices to control the pollution in their storm water runoff.  General Magnaplate’s own sampling data for the past five years demonstrated exceedances of the relevant standards for iron, zinc, aluminum, and other pollutants.

General Magnaplate is a global corporation headquartered in New Jersey and has another facility located in Texas.  The company has been in operation since 1980.  Magnaplate has indicated that it plans to cease operations in California.  Accordingly, the settlement provides for assurances that the facility properly terminates its storm water permit coverage in the event that it ceases operations in order to ensure that sources of storm water pollution are eliminated.

“While we cannot speak to the myriad business reasons that may have gone into the company’s decision to potentially leave California, every day hundreds, if not thousands, of small and large businesses in California profitably operate while complying with the storm water rules underlying EDC’s notice letter,” said Maggie Hall.

General Magnaplate has agreed to feasible measures that will bring the facility into compliance with the Clean Water Act.  EDC hopes that General Magnaplate will decide to continue operations in California while complying with the same standards to which all other industrial operators under the permit are subject, and that are designed to restore our nation’s waterways, for the benefit of the public and wildlife.

General Magnaplate discharges storm water into the Santa Clara River, less than two miles from where the River flows into the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Clara River was listed in 2005 as the 10th most endangered U.S. waterway.   It also 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.

 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 

Keller Rohrback L.L.P. is a national firm with extensive experience in environmental litigation. Attorneys from Keller Rohrback’s complex litigation group have served as lead and co-lead counsel in class actions throughout the country, obtaining settlements and judgments in excess of seven billion dollars. With offices in Santa Barbara, Seattle, Phoenix, New York, and Montana, our trial and appellate attorneys are proud to offer their expertise and advocate on behalf of clients nationwide. The firm’s environmental litigation practice dates back to its role as trial counsel in the Exxon Valdez litigation.