On Wednesday, a California resident, Tannia Delapaz, sued National Technical Systems, owner of an adhesive factory near the Santa Clara 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.”
The complaint alleged that stormwater run-off from the factory, Blair Adhesives, likely contained pollutants such as aluminum, copper, chromium, iron, lead, mercury, nickel, tin, and zinc. According to the plaintiff, the run-off originated from stormwater sledging out from uncovered dumpsters and rusting machinery. Tannia averred that these chemicals reduced water clarity, decreased light available to assist with photosynthesis, and even affected predator-prey relationships by making it difficult for “fish to see their prey.” Additionally, the plaintiff proffered, the run-off stood to produce “inorganic sediments, including settleable matter and suspended solids, [which] have been shown to negatively impact species richness, diversity, and 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 final say in all permitting mandates, individual states designate their own requirements for intrastate water sources. Delapaz argued that the aforementioned actions of the defendant violated two requirements in the California NPDES permit: “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….” Delapaz is represented by Brodsky & Smith, LLC.