(CN) – Malibu has agreed to improve drains throughout the city and keep storm-water runoff from polluting the Santa Monica Bay and other sensitive coastal regions.
Under a settlement announced Friday, Malibu will improve 17 drains and employ techniques such as rainwater harvesting, infiltration and storm-water treatment to stop polluted water from running into the bay, Malibu Lagoon and other coastal hotspots.
The agreement comes after Santa Monica Baykeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the city in 2008 for violations of the Clean Water Act. The groups alleged that the city had failed to stop bacteria- and toxin-laden stormwater from flowing into the ocean, where it made beachgoers and surfers sick. A federal judge ruled for the groups in 2010, finding that the city had illegally discharged polluted water into a marine coastal preserve.
The same groups also sued Los Angeles County and its flood-control district in 2008 for discharging polluted runoff into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, as well as other waterways, which then took the polluted water to the sea. That case eventually went to the 9th Circuit, where a three-judge panel found the county liable for runoff discharged into the Santa Clara River and Malibu Creek.
The panel found that the groups lacked evidence that the county had allowed the polluted stormwater to flow into the two rivers, given the complex and multijurisdictional drainage system through which the water moves to the sea.
Malibu will pay $250,000 to the Ocean Health Water Assessment project under Friday’s agreement, and will monitor water quality along the Malibu shoreline. The settlement also requires the city to pay the environmental groups $750,000.
“Clean beach water is not only good for public health, it supports healthy coastal economies that are key to California’s tourism industry,” NRDC water program director David Beckman said in a statement. “We appreciate the city’s important commitments to clean water.”
The agreement is subject to a 45-day review period with the U.S. Department of Justice and approval by U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz.
Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal applauded the settlement, noting improvements the city has made since the case was filed in 2008.
Now Malibu has a “state-of-the-art storm-water treatment facility,” and Legacy Park, “the city’s award-winning water-cleaning machine,” Rosenthal said in a statement.
“The city has made enormous strides in its clean water programs and we are looking forward to having the NRDC and the Baykeeper work with us into the future,” she added.