Groups Sue Over L.A. County Water Pollution

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Regional water officials and local environmental groups are taking aim at pollution from urban runoff. KPCC's Molly Peterson explains how legal actions are putting Los Angeles county and its cities under the gun.

Molly Peterson: On Monday, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper filed federal lawsuits over water pollution from the city of Malibu and Los Angeles County. The groups say urban pollution is exceeding federal limits. They're concerned about how pollution affects one of California's 34 coastal preserves, the waters stretching from Point Mugu to Latigo Point.

Now the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board is getting into the enforcement act. The board's sent notices to 20 municipalities, including L.A. County, for thousands of cases in which high bacterial levels violate permits for pollution in Santa Monica Bay.

The regional board and the environmental groups say it's coincidence they've both started using sticks instead of carrots to combat pollution. But David Beckman of the Natural Resources Defense Council says both actions focus on results.

David Beckman: The time for talk is over and it's now time for clean water. We need to see it, measure it, and be able to enjoy it when we take our families to the ocean. And we need to stop poisoning marine life with polluted runoff which is, according to scientists, often acutely toxic in Southern California to marine life.

Peterson: A spokesman for L.A. County said it has a program to identify types and sources of bay pollution, and it's working with the regional board. The county, he said, is prepared to defend the environmental group's lawsuit.

But L.A. County, like cities from Agoura Hills to Westlake Village, must also respond to the regional water board's violation notices with information about where the pollution's coming from and how they plan to stop it. If they don't, they'll face fines starting at $10,000 a day.