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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Enviros Push for Pollution Order on Iconic Surf Beach

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Natural Resources Defense Council will seek a court order requiring Los Angeles County to drastically reduce runoff pollution in the wake of a federal court ruling that found the county allowed runoff to pollute the waters around Malibu's Surfrider Beach and other sensitive coastal areas, the group's attorney said.

U.S. District Court Judge Howard Matz ruled in March that the county had violated the federal Clean Water Act by illegally discharging polluted water around the iconic beach and into a marine coastal preserve between Mugu Lagoon and Latigo Point.

The preserve is one of three dozen designated Areas of Special Biological Significance along the California coast with a zero-tolerance on bacterial pollution discharges during dry weather months.

Pollution monitoring showed that the water at Surfrider Beach had exceeded bacterial limits on total coliform, fecal coliform and enterococcus on "dozens of occasions during summer dry weather seasons," in recent years, according to the ruling.

The NRDC in the coming months will ask the court to force the county to reduce polluted runoff from its labyrinthine storm sewer system, which has some 500 miles of open channel, 2,800 storm drains and holds runoff from 84 different cities, said David Beckman, senior attorney and director of NRDC's national Water Program.

The group's preferred way for the county to reduce polluted runoff is by building so-called "green infrastructure," Beckman said.

Currently there is no treatment plant that cleans runoff before it enters the ocean; the water picks up pollutants as it flows over streets, parking lots and residential areas toward the sea, the ruling states.

But Beckman said that the county could capture the runoff before it enters the ocean by building parks, green spaces, permeable pavement, cisterns and other green infrastructure. He said such infrastructure is a "low cost" option that "creates community amenities" while removing pollutants.

"We want the county to discontinue discharges and reduce the bacteria levels, and how the county does that is their prerogative," Beckman said. "We want to structure it in a way that creates benefits" for the community.

On Tuesday Judge Matz rejected the NRDC's claim that the county had also violated the Clean Water Act when it discharged polluted runoff into Malibu Creek and the Santa Clara, Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers.

Matz ruled that the evidence did not prove that the county was the source of the pollutants as opposed to other dischargers, according to the ruling.

The NRDC and the Santa Monica Baykeeper filed the suit in March 2008. The complaint was the first to enforce California's prohibition on polluted discharges to designated Areas of Special Biological Significance, Beckman said.

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