Public Entities That Own Stormwater Systems Have to Treat Stormwater Before it is Discharged


Many public entities (e.g., cities, counties, special districts) provide an important service to their residents. To prevent flooding and other damage from heavy rainfall events, they have created systems for the collection and removal of stormwater. It is well known that stormwater gathers a variety of contaminants as it flows across the landscape and even through a stormwater drainage system itself. Such contaminants may include sediments, suspended metals, nitrogen, phosphorus, trash, used motor oil, pesticides, raw sewage, and various other toxics. The stormwater is often discharged into nearby rivers, wetlands, and lakes where, unfortunately, it contributes to surface and ground water pollution.

In a very recent opinion that has broad implications for the capital and operational budgets of all public entities, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that the Clean Water Act ("CWA") requires that stormwater discharge points (e.g., pipes releasing stormwater into rivers, wetland, and lakes) must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ["NPDES"] permit because such discharge points are a "point source". NRDC v. County of Los Angeles, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 4647 (3/10/11).

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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