(CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court will sort out the highly publicized and long-running dispute between Los Angeles and environmentalists over the cleanup of polluted stormwater runoff that eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean.
On Monday, the high court took up the county’s appeal a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper in 2008.
In July 2011, the 9th Circuit declined to revisit its earlier ruling, in which it found the county’s MS4 stormwater runoff system had dumped harmful pollutants into the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers, ultimately sending tons of sewage and trash into the Pacific Ocean.
The environmentalists sued when pollution levels in the Malibu Creek and the Los Angeles, San Gabriel and Santa Clara Rivers had risen in excess of those allowed by the county’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
The Los Angeles County Flood Control District has consistently argued it is not to blame for the runoff, which include pesticides, sewage and trash, because it does not generate the pollutants.
Although the 9th Circuit concluded the county had polluted the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers, it said there was not enough evidence to determine whether the county was responsible for the pollution in either the Santa Clara River or Malibu Creek.
In agreeing to hear the case, the justices said they would limit their review to the narrow question of whether water flowing through a concrete flood control channel built into a river can be considered a discharge under the Clean Water Act.