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CSPA, Stockton Settle Sewage Spill Lawsuit


Agreement ensures major reductions in sewage spills


By Bill Jennings, Executive Director, CSPA

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 -- Stockton, CA -- Frequent sewage spills in Stockton California will be dramatically reduced through the settlement of a Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) against the City of Stockton.  The lawsuit was filed 16 September 2009 in federal District Court and alleged that the City had violated procedural and substantive provisions of the Act by failing to adequately maintain its sanitary sewer system and failing to report the resulting spills as required.  CSPA’s research identified over 1,500 overflow/spills, or almost 25 spills per 100 miles of sewer line per year.  The agreement contains specific measures requiring the City to reduce spills by approximately 80% within five years.

“We’re delighted that the City engaged in proactive and meaningful negotiations that have culminated in this landmark settlement agreement,” said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings.  “Excessive sewage spills are both a public health and environmental hazard and the agreement ensures substantial improvements to Stockton’s sewage infrastructure over the coming years,” he said.

The settlement agreement is subject to continuing jurisdiction by the court and, among other things, requires the City to:
1. Reduce sewage spills to no more than 5 per 100 miles of sewer line within 5 years.
2. Prepare and implement new standard operating procedures within 90 days,
3. Using CCTV, inspect all gravity sewer lines older than 10 years within 5 years,
4. Undertake corrective actions where problems are found according to an agreed upon schedule,
5. Expand its inspection of food service facilities that contribute fats, oils and grease to the system,
6. Adopt amendments to the Municipal Code to require inspection and remediation of private laterals as a condition of property sales,
7. Establish a program to routinely clean all sewers less than 15 inches in diameter within 5 years and significantly improve the preventive maintenance program.
8. Provide a series of reports to CSPA, included any requested information,
9. Reimburse CSPA $250,000 for costs of bring suit,
10. Provide $15,000 to CSPA legal or technical consultants to oversee compliance, and
11. As mitigation, provide $300,000 to the Rose Foundation for environmental projects benefiting water quality in the Delta.
The agreement also provides for both formal and informal dispute resolution processes.  If necessary, CSPA can return to the court to seek enforcement of the agreement.

“This settlement will move Stockton from very poor to very good system performance. Eliminating the majority of Stockton’s sewage spills is an important step towards toward restoring the health of the San Joaquin River and the Delta,” said Daniel Cooper, attorney for CSPA.

The Stockton lawsuit is part of CSPA’s continuing campaign to end sewage spills in the Central Valley.  Sewage spills and overflows are serious health and environmental hazards.  Because local business and industry discharge into the sanitary sewage system, sewage can contain numerous dangerous chemical solvents, heavy metals like lead and mercury and wastes that can impair immune and reproductive systems of fish and wildlife.  Pathogens in untreated sewage can cause a multitude of illnesses in humans.  Residents may be exposed to these pathogens when swimming, waterskiing, wading, fishing or boating in local waterways, as well as when sewage spills into homes, streets, parks, schools and businesses.

Daniel Cooper and Drevet Hunt of Lawyers for Clean Water, Inc., and Michael Lozeau and Doug Chermak of Lozeau/Drury LLP are representing CSPA in this matter.


Stockton City Council Agenda regarding settlement