San Diego BayKeeper and Surfrider Foundation threaten sewage lawsuit

provided by San Diego BayKeper

n Oct 30, attorneys for leading local environmental organizations San Diego BayKeeper and the Surfrider Foundation put Mayor Susan Golding, City Manager Michael Uberuaga, and the entire City of San Diego on notice that they intend to sue it in sixty days for hundreds of violations of the Clean Water Act occurring over the past five years.

Specifically, the environmental groups are challenging the city's discharges of more than 37 million gallons of raw sewage to San Diego Bay, Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Mission Bay, Pacific Beach, La Jolla, and Torrey Pines. In addition, the threatened lawsuit alleges a failure by the city to develop a program to adequately deal with the storm water and urban runoff alleged to be the primary sources of coastal pollution along our coast. Attached to the Notice Of Intent (NOI) to sue letter is a 52 page summary of the city's illegal discharges, which, taken together, have caused thousands of days of beach and bay closures spanning all of San Diego's coastal communities.

The NOI states that the illegal discharges have been caused by the intentional conduct and neglect of the city over the past five years. In particular, the letter notes the failure of the city to:


  • Rebuild an antiquated sewer collections system;
  • Maintain the existing collection system;
  • Adequately monitor sewage flows in the system;
  • Divert dry-weather flows of urban runoff from known problem areas;
  • Implement Best Management Practices to reduce pollutants in urban runoff;
  • Identify and control illegal sewage discharges by third parties into the storm drain system.

Bruce Reznik, Executive Director of San Diego BayKeeper, stated, "The chronic pattern of sewage spills continues to affect every beach community throughout the city. It's time for our elected officials to be held accountable, not only for the environmental damage and public health risks caused by these spills, but also for all of the negative impacts to the economy that result from our region's damaged reputation."

Marco Gonzalez, Attorney for the environmental groups and Chairman of the San Diego Surfrider Foundation, stated, "In the ongoing litigation between the city and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the city is going to great lengths to show that our multitude of beach closures and constant ocean pollution are not because of sewage discharges from the Point Loma Ocean Outfall, but rather from difficult to discern non-point source and urban runoff. With this lawsuit, we will show that the city is responsible for those problems as well."

Supporter of the environmental groups, Donna Frye of Surfers Tired of Pollution (S.T.O.P.) noted, "It's about time the city is made to take action for its failure to maintain basic services for its citizens. We have a right to clean water, and the elected officials must accept responsibility for denying us this right. This lawsuit will put an end to the city's arguments that every sewage spill is merely an accident or act of nature."

The litigation team assembled by the environmental groups includes local offices of Rory Wicks and Marco Gonzalez, as well as San Francisco's Daniel Cooper of Lawyers for Clean Water.