Sewage Spills and Waste Water Treatment Plant Discharges

Santa Clara River Estuary Clean Water Act Sewage Effluent Case

Sample taken by our Stream team from the WasteWater Treatment plant outfall to the estuary

In January 2010, VCK initiated a Clean Water Act Action against the City of Ventura to protect the Southern California Steelhead and the Santa Clara River Estuarys ecological integrity from an average polluted sewage effluent discharge of over 7 million gallons per day. Our goal: to secure the ecological protections needed for the Estuary, and for the sewage effluent to be recycled and re-used for agricultural, groundwater recharge, and other beneficial uses in the water supply limited watershed and county. 

Eutrophic Oxygen Starved Conditions during an algeal bloom documented during a watershed monitoring outing in the nutrient rich estuary

In August 2011, Wishtoyo, its Ventura Coastkeeper Program, and Heal the Bay entered into an historic and precedent setting settlement with the City of Ventura. The settlement, resulting from our Clean Water Act citizen suit and Heal the Bays administrative challenge to the Citys NPDES permit, mandates that Ventura makes a net investment of $55 million to reclaim between 50% to 100% of its tertiary treated effluent by 2025 that would otherwise be discharged to the Estuary. Under the agreement, Ventura can only continue discharging to the estuary if extensive ecological and hydrological studies demonstrate that a particular amount of the treated effluent is needed for the Estuarys native species. If the discharge does continue in any amount, the settlement provides additional protection for the Estuary by mandating that the effluent first go through a treatment wetland that reduces its nitrate concentrations from 8 mg/L to less than 4 mg/L.

Our stream Team Monitoring Dissolved Oxygen and Nutrient Concentration in the Estuary to document the Suitabiity of Habitat for Steelhead and other Species

This monumental achievement will enable steelhead recovery in the Santa Clara River watershed by providing suitable water quality for juvenile steelhead survival and rearing in the Estuary; will provide over 7 million gallons per day of water for agricultural, municipal, and industrial use; and will indirectly help restore the natural flow regime of the Santa Clara River needed for steelhead migration and its native flora and fauna. 

City of Ventura Sanitary Sewer Overflow (“SSO) Settlement

In November 2010, VCK settled its Sanitary Sewer Overflow ("SSO") case against the City of San Buenaventura and secured enhancement of the City's sewage system infrastructure, operation, and maintenance to ensure Ventura to prevent raw sewage from spilling into our streets and coastal waters. We brought this case primarily to protect the health of surfers, swimmers, and beachgoers who cherish and enjoy Ventura County's beautiful coast and world renowned surf breaks. 

Our settlement agreement with the City of Ventura resulted in reduced spills and enhanced maintenance of the City’s sewage infrastructure. The City is meeting the agreement’s annual spill reduction targets, as its annual frequency of raw sewage spills has substantially decreased from 2009 levels each year.  Implementation of the settlement agreement in on track to hopefully prevent the City's leaky sewage pipes from discharging raw sewage into Ventura County’s coastal waters and beaches, and has already result in enhanced protections for the human and wildlife communities that depend upon a healthy ocean and coast. 

Polluted Stormwater Discharges

Since 2009, throughout Ventura County, along its coast, up the Santa Clara River, and into the Calleguas Creek, Mugu Lagoon, and Ormond Beach watersheds, we have entered into, monitored, and enforced our legal settlements, initiated new citizen suits against, and/or went into trial against over 14 dirty companies operating on over 350 total acres. These resource intensive efforts stopped toxic discharges of metals, E. coli, and trash into inland and coastal waters from industrial facilities such as scrap metal yards, waste transfer stations, electric generating facilities, automobile dismantling yards, and the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park.  

Six Flags Magic Mountain Campaign: In 2011 we were shocked when a Magic Mountain employee informed Wishtoyo and our Ventura Coastkeeper Program that he was instructed to wash trash down the amusement park's storm drains after hours. Our stream team responded to the whistle blower's concerns about the park's pollution impact on the Santa Clara River with a site investigation, and discovered Magic Mountain labeled trash and souvenir items lining the Santa Clara River's side channels from the park's three discharge points all the way to their confluences with the Santa Clara's mainstem. Subsequent sampling during storm events and Magic Mountain's own stormwater sampling results also demonstrated exceptionally toxic levels of metals such as copper, zinc, aluminum, and iron spewing from Magic Mountain's discharge points. 

In April 2012, Wishtoyo, Ventura Coastkeeper, and partners Los Angeles Waterkeeper and Friends of the Santa Clara River, initiated a Clean Water Act citizen suit enforcement action to abate this egregious pollution from the 260 acre amusement park. In December 2014, after almost three years of hard fought, resource intensive litigation to protect the Santa Clara River and Pacific Ocean from Six Flags Magic Mountains discharges of polluted storm water containing trash and toxic levels of metals, we prevailed on our motion for summary judgment on our major substantive claims. The Court finding Magic Mountain in violation of the Clean Water Act for its toxic discharges paved the way for a promising settlement in 2015 to ensure the Santa Clara and Pacific Ocean are protected from toxic discharges of metals and trash. Under the agreement filed in federal court, Six Flags must treat its polluted discharges to legal limits or infiltrate its stormwater to groundwater. 

KCLU Piece and Interview Covering the Magic Mountain Lawsuit & Settlement

This Polluted Stormwater Discharge from the Facility in 2012 contained TOXIC COncentrations of Metals, E. Coli, and FECAL Matter. 

Waste Management Waste Transfer Station Enforcement: In October 2014, Wishtoyo Foundation and its Ventura Coastkeeper Program reached settlement with Waste Management subsidiary G.I. Industries over our Clean Water Act lawsuit filed in March of 2014 to protect Arroyo Simi, Mugu Lagoon, and the Pacific Ocean from polluted stormwater discharges of e.coli, trash, and toxic metals. The agreement, filed in federal court, requires Waste Management to implement pollution prevention and treatment control (Best Management Practices - BMPs) at its 8.2 acre Simi Valley municipal and commercial trash collection, hauling, and truck yard facility.  The BMPs will ensure storm water and dry weather discharges from its facility comply with the Clean Water Act and are protective of the ecological, recreational, and cultural uses of Arroyo Simi, Arroyo Las Posas, Calleguas Creek, Mugu Lagoon, and Ventura’s coastal waters.

Ormond Beach Generating Station Clean Water Act Suit: In October 2012, we initiated a Clean Water Act citizen suit against GenOn West LLP, a fully owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc.,  to abate the Ormond Beach Electricity Generating Station’s discharge of polluted storm water into the Ormond Beach Wetlands, Mugu Lagoon, and the Pacific Ocean. A March 2013 settlement with the 38-acre facility secured protections for the Ormond Beach Wetlands, Mugu Lagoon, and Ventura’s coastal waters. Since settlement with Wishtoyo and its Ventura Coastkeeper Program, the Ormond Beach Generating Station has installed an advanced metals removing filtration system to treat its storm water discharges.


Auto Dismantling Yard Storm Water Clean Water Act Litigation: In 2012, VCK secured water quality protections for the Santa Clara River and underlying groundwater aquifers from multiple automobile dismantling and scrap metal companies operating their facilities on 37 acres off Mission Rock Road in Santa Paula, California through settlement agreements filed in federal court. The decrees mandate compliance with applicable surface and groundwater water quality standards, and require groundwater monitoring of infiltrating storm water. 

E.J. Harrison & Sons Storm Water Pollution Case: In 2011, VCK settled its Clean Water Act storm water case with E.J. Harrison & Sons Saticoy trash hauling facility. The settlement requires the construction of additional treatment infrastructure to ensure the Facilitys discharges comply with water quality standards and protect the ecological, recreational, and cultural uses of the Santa Clara River and Venturas Coast for pollutants like e. coli that threaten the health of surfers, beach goers, Chumash Native Americans, and the general public who utilize the Santa Clara River and Ventura's coast for recreational and cultural activities.

Standard Industries Storm Water Litigation: In November 2010, VCK settled its Clean Water Act storm water case against Standard Industries. The settlement agreement strives to ensure the 10 acre scrap metal facility in Saticoy implements Best Management Practices (BMPs) that protect Southern California Steelhead, the Santa Clara River, and Ventura Countys marine waters from metals in its storm water runoff.  While Standard Industries reduced mass emissions of metals from its Facilitys storm water discharges into the Santa Clara River by 95% during periods of low rainfall during the drought, VCK is still working with the facility to ensure it meets end of pipe water quality standards and BMP requirements of the General Industrial Stormwater permit.