On Thursday, a California resident, Alesha Davis, sued California Metal X, owner of an adhesive factory near the Los Angeles River, on accusations that the factory violated the Clean Water Act by polluting the river so extensively that ecosystems were disappearing, recreational use of the water source was inhibited, and the water now appeared both “brown and dirty” with an “unpleasant smell coming from the water.”
The complaint, filed in the Central District of California, alleged that stormwater run-off from the factory, Blair Adhesives, likely contained pollutants, such as “aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, nickel, tin, zinc, suspended solids…nitrate [and] nitrite nitrogen.” According to the plaintiff, the run-off originated from stormwater sledging out from uncovered refuse bins, chemical storage containers, weathered industrial machinery, and the “carrying out of industrial processes outdoors and not under cover.”
Davis averred that these chemicals produced “health problems in people and aquatic animals, including neurological, physiological, and reproductive effects…known to alter activity in tissues and blood….” The defendants’ pollution, the plaintiff further alleged, additionally reduced water clarity making it more difficult for fish to see their prey and decreased light available (and necessary) to support photosynthesis. Finally, plaintiff Davis concluded, the polluted sediment, contained in the stormwater run-off, retained higher levels of aforementioned toxins resulting in a reduction of the “total biomass of filter feeding aquatic organisms on bottom surfaces.”
The Clean Water Act bars the discharge of any pollutant into waters of the United States unless the perpetrator of the pollutants first met requirements laid out in a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the EPA ultimately retains the final say in all permitting mandates, individual states designate their own requirements for intrastate water sources. Davis argued that the aforementioned actions of the defendant violated multiple requirements in the California NPDES permit, including that “waters shall not contain suspended or settleable materials in concentrations that cause nuisance or adversely affect beneficial users” and “all water shall be maintained free of toxic substances in concentrations that are toxic to, or that produce detrimental physiological responses in human, plant, animal or aquatic life.”
The plaintiff sought civil penalties of up to $51,570 per day the defendant committed CWA violations, court costs, attorney’s fees, and an injunction requiring the “defendant to restore all receiving waters damaged by…illegal discharges of pollutants….” and further enjoining the defendant from all future discharges that violate the CWA. Davis is represented by Brodsky & Smith, LLC. This is the second lawsuit filed against the defendant for CWA violations since July.