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    Court Tells 46 Cities (Incl. Lakewood): Clean-Up Your Polluted Runoff Before It Reaches LB & Other Coastal Waters

    (March 29, 2005) -- An L.A. County Superior Court has rejected challenges by a coalition of 46 L.A. county cities -- including Lakewood -- that challenged a regional storm water cleanup plan -- supported by LB City Hall -- directing implementation of measures to clean up polluted runoff before it reaches coastal waters including LB.

    Three environmental groups -- the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Heal the Bay, and Santa Monica Baykeeper -- intervened as formal parties in the lawsuit in favor of the cleanup plan; the CA Attorney General's Office and NRDC jointly defended the cleanup plan in court.

    The coalition of 46 upstream cities, along with Los Angeles County, challenged the cleanup plan, complaining (among other things) that it was too costly.

    A section on Lakewood City Hall's web site says it could "cost Los Angeles area property owners anywhere from $23 billion to $170 billion over the next 20 years" citing a study prepared by the upstream 46-city coalition. Lakewood's web site also notes that a study by the CA Environmental Protection Agency forecasts much lower compliance costs.

    The Lakewood City Council recently passed a new ordinance setting standards for runoff from construction projects and mandating "best maintenance practices" for businesses like gas stations and restaurants...but the city has continued to fight the larger clean-up plan.

    The storm water cleanup plan requires new measures such as drain filters, silt-removal basins, and more rigorous inspections of industrial facilities...and requires measurable improvement in coastal water quality, not efforts by cities, industry, and developers, all of whom have responsibilities under the plan.

    The court found that the costs of complying with the plan's requirements were reasonable and that regulators carefully considered "economics in testimony, comment letters, local studies, national studies, EPA reports, and self-reported costs from [cities]."

    NRDC says storm water runoff is the largest source of pollution to CA's coast.

    The group added in a written release:

    One of the most important aspects of the decision is the court's rejection of the argument that California's water quality standards, which set purity thresholds for "clean water," did not apply to polluted runoff, but only to sewage treatment plants and factory discharges. The court upheld the authority of state regulators to require both cities and builders to implement and develop control measures to meet these standards, which apply to pathogens, toxins and other pollutants.

    The court's ruling upholding the cleanup plan could be appealed. A separate court ruling upholding a San Diego storm water cleanup plan has already percolated to the CA Supreme Court, where a decision is pending.

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