OCWD Sues Polluters

Hot off the wire – 

Orange County Water District Initiates Lawsuit Against industries that have polluted the groundwater with INDUSTRIAL Chemicals

Drinking Water is Safe; Proactive Action Required to Protect Orange County’s Groundwater Basin from Further Contamination

Fountain Valley, Calif. (June 23, 2008) – The Orange County Water District (OCWD) filed suit today against several industrial businesses that the District believes are responsible for contaminating parts of Orange County’s groundwater basin with volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and perchlorate.

For decades, VOCs have been commonly used by industry as solvents and cleaning agents. Perchlorate is a contaminant that has been associated with propellants, lubricating oils, explosives, cleaning agents, and other industrial products and operations. As the groundwater management agency, OCWD filed the suit to protect groundwater resources in central Orange County. The contaminated areas in the groundwater basin pose a serious and substantial threat to the public health and environment.

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, seeks to recover funds needed to investigate, monitor and remove VOC and perchlorate contamination in the groundwater supplies of Orange County. Faced with the high costs of investigating and cleaning up the contamination, OCWD seeks to hold the industrial polluters responsible for their contamination.

“The water from the wells currently operating in Santa Ana, Irvine and other areas of Orange County is safe, but millions of dollars are needed to investigate and clean up the contamination and make sure Orange County’s drinking water remains safe from VOC contamination,” emphasized Mike Markus, general manager for the Orange County Water District. “VOCs and perchlorate are threatening to destroy a significant portion of our water supply unless we act now. These pollutants have significantly contaminated parts of our shallow aquifer. This lawsuit will assure that the costs of protecting our water supply from contamination are paid by the companies responsible for the problem, and not by OCWD and the community.”

The defendants named in the action are the businesses and other industries that OCWD believes have contaminated certain areas of the shallow aquifer. The suit contends that these companies failed to prevent spills, leaks, discharges and releases of VOCs and perchlorate; monitor or discover VOC and perchlorate spills; warn those who may be injured by the VOC and perchlorate leaks; or clean up and abate these VOC and perchlorate discharges as thoroughly and quickly as reasonably possible, and in a manner necessary to prevent harm or injury.

OCWD has retained Miller, Axline & Sawyer based in Sacramento as its outside counsel. The firm has extensive experience representing public water agencies in lawsuits to recover the costs of treating contaminated water.

The groundwater basin is managed by OCWD and provides up to 75 percent of the water supply for more than 2.3 million residents in the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster and Yorba Linda. For more information about the Orange County Water District, visit www.ocwd.com on the Internet.