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CA Supreme Court declines to hear runoff case

Posted: May 5, 2014 2:52 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2014 2:52 p.m.

A broken stretch of the centuries-old original water system is seen in Los Angeles. Construction workers part of a centuries-old original water system.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal by Los Angeles County contesting a ruling that held it liable for storm water pollution.

The justices did not comment in rejecting the appeal by the county flood control district.

In 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Los Angeles Waterkeeper sued to hold the county responsible for the cleanup of mercury, arsenic, cyanide, lead and fecal bacteria in billions of gallons of polluted runoff.

Environmentalists, who contend that chronic pollution has sickened swimmers, were pleased with the Supreme Court's decision.

"Los Angeles County needs to face the facts and get to work to clean up its mess. It's time for a cleaner water future for the region," Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney for NRDC, said in a statement.

Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county violated a Clean Water Act permit and was responsible for the heavily polluted storm water flowing untreated each year down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers.

In a statement, the county said the Supreme Court's decision to not take up the case was disturbing because the appeals court ruling assigned blame to municipalities without taking into account the sources of the discharges.

"This could force municipalities to redirect limited public funds from other critical services to spend on controlling pollution from private and other sources who are the responsible parties," Gail Farber, chief engineer of the Flood Control District and director of the Los Angeles County Public Works Department, said in a statement.

The case will be returned to U.S. District Court in Los Angeles where environmentalists said they planned to pursue green remedies to capture and retain storm water through catch basins or rain gardens.

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