Trash in the crook of a boom at the mouth of the L.A. River is a visible reminder of the way storm water drains through city and county systems toward the coast. It carries with it pollutants like oil, metals, bacteria, and chemicals.
A federal appeals court has ruled that Los Angeles County violated a Clean Water Act permit when excessive storm water pollution was detected in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers.
The U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals opinion issued Thursday ruled that the county remained responsible despite a narrow ruling in January by the U.S. Supreme Court saying it was not.
A lawsuit was brought by environmental groups in 2008 to hold the county responsible and clean up mercury, arsenic, cyanide, lead and fecal bacteria in billions of gallons of runoff.
Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Steve Fleischli says persistent pollution has sickened swimmers in Southern California's rivers and at beaches.
Flood control district spokesman Kerjon Lee told the Los Angeles Times that county officials are still reviewing the decision and had no comment.