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EDC Settles Clean Water Act Case Against Toland Road Landfill

 

 

June 6, 2017

Ventura Regional Sanitation District Agrees to Protect Water Quality in Santa Clara River and O’Leary Creek

Ventura, CA 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.

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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. Additional info at www.lozeaudrury.com

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