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CSPA Action Alert


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CSPA settles suit with Rio Bravo energy facility: Cleanup begins of cancer causing contaminates being discharged into public drinking water

by Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director
March 23, 2009 -- CSPA has settled a Clean Water Act lawsuit and a Proposition 65 (Sections 25249.5 et seq., of the California Health and Safety Code) claim against the Rio Bravo bio-mass power generating facility regarding serious violations of the California General Industrial Stormwater Permit at the plant located in Lincoln, Placer County, California's Prop. 65 prohibits the discharge of cancer causing contaminates into public drinking water supplies. The 50-acre facility discharges polluted stormwater at three points into the local stormwater conveyance system that drain into local ravines and waterways tributary to the Sacramento River. 

A 60-day notice letter of intent to sue was sent in March 2008 and the Clean Water Act lawsuit was filed in federal court on 4 June 2008. A notice letter alleging violations of Proposition 65 was issued on 6 February 2009. The actions allege that Rio Bravo illegally discharged excessive concentrations of total suspended solids, specific conductance, chromium, copper, lead, zinc, iron and aluminum in violation of their stormwater permit and the Clean Water Act. The plant also failed to develop, implement and update: 1) Best Available and Best Conventional Treatment Technologies; 2) an adequate Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP); and 3) an adequate monitoring and reporting plan. It also accused the operators of falsely certifying compliance in their annual reports.

The Settlement Agreement has been submitted to the court as an enforceable Consent Decree and to the U.S. Department of Justice for review. It obligates Waste Management to: 1) comply fully with the applicable requirements of the General Permit and Clean Water Act; 2) implement a suite of Best Management and Housekeeping Practices; 3) develop and implement a number of engineered filtration devices and other structural improvements; 4) conduct more frequent, comprehensive monitoring during rain events, and 5) prepare an adequate SWPPP. The agreement incorporates  “Meet & Confer” provisions that allow CSPA to return to court for enforcement if pollutant benchmarks continue to be exceeded and the parties cannot agree on additional measures to be implemented.

As mitigation for past violations, Rio Bravo agreed to send $55,000 to the Rose Foundation for a Better Environment to fund environmental projects that will improve water quality. They also agreed to reimburse CSPA's costs of bringing suit plus funds to oversee implementation of the agreement.

CSPA vs. Rio Bravo final settlement