EDC & Keller Rohrback Initiate Clean Water Act Enforcement Case

November 12, 2015

EDC & Keller Rohrback Initiate Clean Water Act Enforcement Case

On October 13, 2015 the Environmental Defense Center and Keller Rohrback L.L.P. notified global coating company General Magnaplate of EDC’s intent to sue the company for allegedly operating its electroplating facility in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

The notice letter alleges that the facility is illegally discharging storm water containing pollutants, including zinc and aluminum, into the Santa Clara River, less than two miles from where the River flows into the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Clara River, southern California’s last naturally free-flowing major river, is critical to the communities’ health and recreation, and is home to numerous endangered species.

EDC and Keller Rohrback’s investigation has revealed that, over the past five years, General Magnaplate has apparently continuously violated California’s General Industrial Storm Water Permit by discharging iron, zinc, aluminum, and other pollutants in concentrations that are magnitudes above lawful limits.

The General Permit is intended to protect California's waterways from pollution caused by storm water runoff from industrial facilities. Storm water is among the nation’s top sources of water contamination, as significant quantities of pollution enter our waterways when it rains. Under the General Permit, industrial facilities must implement best management practices designed to reduce the pollutants in their runoff. Electroplating facilities like General Magnaplate are required to collect and analyze storm water samples for iron, zinc, aluminum, and other pollutants.

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.

Under the Clean Water Act, potential litigants must send a 60-day notice of intent to sue before lawsuits can be filed alleging that a facility is in violation of the Act. While EDC and Keller Rohrback are committed to pursuing legal remedies if necessary, their hope is that submission of the notice will prompt General Magnaplate to comply with its mandatory permit requirements, thereby protecting water quality, without court intervention.

Read the complete notice letter here.