LA Department of Water and Power Sued for Unlawful Discharge of Pollutants

On Tuesday, Los Angeles Waterkeeper (LA Waterkeeper), a non-profit association based in California, filed suit in the Central District of California against defendant Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and civil penalties expresses allegations that LADWP operates an industrial facility that is in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

The plaintiff, per its complaint, frequently monitors the “water quality, insect populations, and habitat at multiple locations in the Los Angeles River.” The defendant owns and operates an industrial facility that generates electrical power from gas-fired generators. Since the activities at the facility occur outdoors, they are exposed to stormwater. The plaintiff alleges that the areas generate and release harmful pollutants, which are then discharged to the Los Angeles County municipal separate storm sewer system through storm water. The polluted water then flows into channels that lead to the Los Angeles River.

The pollutants that the plaintiff alleges flow from the facility enter the Los Angeles River and its related channels and estuaries. The plaintiffs explained that the Los Angeles River “provides a rich brackish habitat at the intersection of freshwater and saltwater environments,” and is home to a variety of species, some of which are endangered. Outlets of the Los Angeles River are also home to recreational activities such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.  

Under the Clean Water Act, dischargers are required to obtain permission through an NPDES permit prior to discharging pollutants into United States waters. The Clean Water Act and the Storm Water Permit (which is a statewide general NPDES permit) require dischargers like the defendant to employ Best Management Practices, or BMPs, as well as Monitoring Implementation Plans, or MIPs, that will work to reduce or eliminate storm water pollution.

Dischargers that engage in industrial activities are additionally required to develop and implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) which must “identify and evaluate sources of pollutants associated with industrial activities that may affect the quality of stormwater and authorized non-storm water discharges from the facility.” The plaintiff asserts that the pollutants discharged from the facility are in a concentration that violates limitations set by the Storm Water Permit, the Federal Effluent Limitations, and more.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendant has been neglecting BMPs and MIPs, and instead have been operating on an inadequate SWPPP that violates General Permit requirements. The misconduct on behalf of the defendant has resulted in “the Facility’s unlawful effluent limitation violations.” LA Waterkeeper explains that unlawful pollutants they have found to be associated with the facility include aluminum, copper, selenium, zinc, and more.

The complaint cites violations of the Storm Water Permit’s Effluent Limitations and Receiving Water Limitations, as well as the Clean Water Act. It also cites the defendant’s failure to develop, implement, or revise an SWPPP or MIP. LA Waterkeeper is seeking favorable judgment on all counts, an injunction preventing further violations by the defendant, civil monetary penalties for each violation, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed appropriate by the Court.The plaintiff is represented by Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group.