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Court rules county liable for storm water pollution

Posted: August 9, 2013 6:09 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2013 6:09 p.m.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Los Angeles County is liable for the level of pollution found in its storm water.

The decision, released Thursday, is a win for environmental groups who first filed a suit on the matter in 2008, saying the county was responsible for needed cleanup of arsenic, cyanide, lead and mercury in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers.

The Supreme Court sided with the county in a narrow ruling in January but did not rule on a number of other issues in the case.

“We view this as another legal skirmish in a case we thought had been resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Gail Farber, chief engineer of the Flood Control District and director of the county Department of Public Works, in a news release.

“It is unfortunate that this case continues to divert public resources away from the work of improving water quality in the L.A. region.”

The issue of storm water pollution in Los Angeles County has been the cause of controversy this year after county officials proposed a per-parcel fee, called the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure, to fund storm water cleanup efforts countywide.

That fee would range from below $100 a year for most single-family residences to potentially more than $10,000 for large commercial or industrial properties.

But some said the methodology for determining what property owners had to pay was inconsistent and criticized the fact that the fee, as proposed, did not provide offsets for property owners who have measures in place to reduce runoff pollution or include offsets for cities, such as Santa Clarita, that already charge fees to clean up storm water.

The county Board of Supervisors held two public hearings on the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure, drawing hundreds of speakers in support and opposition, before referring it back to the county Department of Public Works for additional study.

Supervisors last heard an update on the fee in June but said at that point they did not have the specifics they needed to move forward with the fee.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with cities, regulatory agencies, and the environmental community to enhance water quality and protect our waterways,” Farber said.

Supervisors have indicated support for putting the issue of a storm water cleanup fee to a public vote in 2014.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.


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