Lawyers for Clean Water provides representation in a variety of matters aimed at protecting the environment. Areas of expertise include:

Stormwater Pollution from Industrial and Construction Sites and Municipal Storm Sewer Systems

Uncontrolled hazardous waste pile at Halaco, Inc. pollutes Ormand Beach wetlands in Oxnard, CA.

Stormwater runoff is in the leading source of pollutants to local waterways throughout the nation. Stormwater pollution from scrap metal yards, construction sites, and urbanized municipal areas clogs our waterways, destroys habitat, and disrupts the aquatic ecosystem. The Clean Water Act regulates the levels of pollutants in stormwater that can legally enter surface waters. Lawyers for Clean Water represents environmental groups and their members to utilize the Clean Water Act’s protections to require dischargers to comply with the Act, including improving upon, and in some cases developing for the first time, the required pollution control management practices.

Stormwater citizen suit representation has included: Santa Monica Baykeeper v. Kramer Metals; Orange County Coastkeeper v. Pulte Homes; Russian Riverkeeper v. Redwood Empire Sawmill; Baykeeper/NRDC v. City of Malibu.

Discharges of Raw and Partially Treated Sewage

San Francisco Baykeeper skipper Geoff Potter standing at the City of Vallejo raw sewage overflow pipes in the Napa River.

According to self-reporting by sewage collection and treatment agencies, in 2009 over 6.7 million gallons of raw or inadequately treated sewage discharged directly from sewage collection systems to California’s streams, river, bays, and ocean. Most of these discharges result from poor operation and maintenance of the sewage collection system, and pose a serious threat to both the environment and public health. Lawyers for Clean Water represents environmental organizations on the receiving waters of these illegal discharges. Resolution requires a significant commitment to evaluate size, replace or repair, and properly operate and maintain sewage system infrastructure. These needed improvements help keep raw sewage, and the pollutants it contains, out of our waterways and off our beaches.

Sewer system overflow citizen representation has included: San Francisco Baykeeper v. City of Richmond; California Sportfishing Protection Alliance v. City of Stockton; Santa Monica Baykeeper v. City of Los Angeles.

Management of Liquid and Solid Waste at Large-Scale Animal Feeding Operations

There are approximately 1.4 million dairy cows in the state of California generating more than 30 million tons of manure each year. Manure may contain arsenic, copper, zinc, cadmium, lead, iron, manganese, as well as pathogens, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Most of these dairies are industrial factories, referred to as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, and are identified as a major source of pollutants to groundwater, surface water, and air. CAFOThe impacts to water resources from dairy CAFOs are significant and devastating. Lawyers for Clean Water represents local community groups that are impacted by CAFO discharges containing elevated levels of nitrates, phosphorous, ammonia, and other pollutants. We also work to get state regulatory agencies to implement stringent federal protections in CAFO permits which are necessary to adequately protect local waterways.

CAFO citizen suit representation has included: Deltakeeper Chapter of Baykeeper, et al., v. S & H Dairy; San Francisco Baykeeper et al. vs. Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region.

Contaminated Sites that Pose a Substantial and Imminent Endangerment to Human Health and the Environment

Abandoned gold-rush era mining sites, abandoned or unused military facilities, and abandoned industrial sites leach toxic chemicals throughout California. Adjacent communities face constant threats from this contamination and pollution. Lawyers for Clean Water has represented citizen groups to force clean-ups and mitigate discharges of pollutants to receiving waters.

Representation in citizen enforcement for imminent and substantial endangerment has included: Waterkeepers Northern California v. Coleman; Ecological Rights Foundation v. Eel River Sawmills, San Francisco Baykeeper v. US Navy Department (Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, Naval Station Treasure Island, Point Molate Naval Station, Mare Island Naval Station).

These pollution problems represent a fraction of the cases on which Lawyers for Clean Water has provided representation. Other areas of litigation include: challenging nuisance conditions, stopping illegal dredge and fill of waterways, and enforcing the California Environmental Quality Act.