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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

L.A. Public Works Polluted Water|It Should Protect, Water Board Says

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and Southern California Gas Co. polluted Sullivan Canyon Creek with sediment, gravel and soil during a pipeline project, in violation of the Clean Water Act, says the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

In its Superior Court complaint, the board says it discovered Clean Water Act violations and violations of the Fish and Game Code when they visited the public works site. The county allegedly drove dump trucks through the stream and piled debris 15 feet high in the creek during its project with Southern California Gas Co.

The board says the county damaged more than an acre of streambed vegetation, which provided habitat for the Pacific treefrog, California treefrog, Anna's hummingbird and the dusky-footed woodrat, among others.

Diverting and covering the creek caused sediment and debris to pile up in the canyon, increasing the possibility of flooding, creating erosion problems, and hurting water quality, the lawsuit states. The creek flows into Santa Monica Bay, federally protected territorial waters.

The Water Quality Control Board in 2004 approved several county projects, including the one at Sullivan Canyon Creek, with the stipulation that the county follow 36 conditions to safeguard water quality.

The Department of Public Works is entrusted with county flood control, among other responsibilities. Instead, Public Works and the county improperly enlarged and graded a nearly mile-long section of the access road to the gas company's pipeline valve station, the lawsuit states.

The water quality board said the county had not included road work in its project proposal. The board says the enlarged road filled the creek in several spots, forcing it to flow through or over the road, and sediment buried mature sycamore trees up to 5 feet deep. The county also diverted the creek in several places without applying for a streambed alteration permit from the Department of Fish and Game, the lawsuit states.

The water quality board and Fish and Wildlife staff ordered the project stopped after finding the violations. Under Fish and Wildlife supervision, the defendants moved most of the debris away from the creek, but it took more than a year, the board says.

The State Water Code allows maximum fines of $25,000 per day for violations of the Clean Water Act. The board also demands an injunction.

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