Home  All News Topics    Legal Issues Archives    


Legal Issues

Sacramento, California radio station found liable in water intoxication death suit

After two weeks of deliberations, a Sacramento jury found radio station 107.9 "The End" 100 percent responsible and negligent in the wrongful death civil suit of contestant Jennifer Strange and awarded her family $16.6 million. On Jan. 12, 2007, Strange, 28, died after taking part in a "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest on the station's "The Morning Rave" program. The contest challenged contestants to continuously drink water - as much as 16 ounces of water every 10 minutes - without going to the bathroom. News 10/KXTV_ 10/29/09

California wins lawsuit for more water/energy-efficient clothes washers

Washing machines account for 20% of an average household’s water use in California, but that may change now that the California Energy Commission has prevailed in a years-long lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy, which had prevented the commission from adopting a more water- and energy-efficient standard for clothes washers.  Currently, there is no standard for how much water a washing machine uses. It’s estimated that the average washing machine uses 39.2 gallons of water per wash, or 15,366 gallons a year for a normal household.  If California’s proposed standard goes into effect, an average machine would use just 6 gallons of water per cubic foot of washing machine capacity; the average washing machine would use just 21.1 gallons per wash, or 8,271 gallons per year.  Jonathan Blees, assistant chief counsel for the California Energy Commission, said the standard does not require consumers to upgrade their machines; it merely requires manufacturers to apply the standard to all California washing machines that are made after the standard goes in to effect.  Blees said many washing-machine models, most of them front-loading, currently meet the 6-gallon standard.  Los Angeles Times_10/30/09

Former Alabama county chief convicted in corruption trial tied to sewer project

A jury on Wednesday found the head of the Jefferson County commission when it revamped the county's sewer system at great cost guilty on all 60 counts in a federal corruption trial. The trial shed light on alleged corruption at the heart of Jefferson County's multibillion-dollar sewer debt, which has forced the county to the brink of what would be the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Larry Langford, a Democrat and currently mayor of Birmingham, Alabama's biggest city, was president of the Jefferson County commission before starting to his current position in 2007. He was found guilty of charges including bribery, money laundering, criminal conspiracy, mail and wire fraud. He faces possible life in prison, as well as disbarment from office. Reuters_ 10/28/09

U.S. Supreme Court postpones North Carolina-South Carolina water rights arguments

Oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding water rights to the Catawba River have been postponed because a lawyer had a family emergency and a new date will be chosen today. The nine justices from the nation’s highest court had been scheduled to hear arguments Monday from Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK), the city of Charlotte and a bi-state water utility. The three want to participate in the pending South Carolina vs. North Carolina case. But S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster wants to limit the number of parties that can weigh in on the issue to just the two states. At the heart of the Carolinas’ water war: how the river’s limited resources should be divided among competing interests. Observers say the federal case could determine the course of development for more than 30 cities and towns in 14 counties in the Carolinas. The river is the source of drinking water for more than 1.3 million residents, and it’s critical to the operations of power plants and industrial facilities. Charlotte Business Journal_ 10/5/09

California water board member sentenced for misusing public funds
Pomona Superior Court Judge Mike Camacho sentenced Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member Xavier Alvarez, 51, to five years in state prison and ordered him to pay $4,150.79 in restitution to the water district.  Alvarez, who in 2006 was elected to the board by south Pomona voters, unlawfully secured medical benefits for his ex-wife, Juanita Ruiz. The Three Valleys district provides medical insurance to its directors, their spouses, children and other dependents.  Alvarez failed to disclose that he had been divorced for five years when he applied for and received health insurance benefits for Ruiz, prosecutors said. Alvarez already was on federal probation for falsely claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient.  Los Angeles Times_10/01/09

New Jersey prosecutors go after Hamburg, Pennsylvania bottled water company

Cumberland County, New Jersey prosecutor Ron Casella has revealed details on the circumstances relating to an indictment handed down by a Superior Court Grand Jury in Cumberland County in June against Trident, LLC, a Hamburg, Pa.-based bottled water company and its president and CFO. In a 10-count indictment, a grand jury found Trident, LLC committed a brazen act of theft against Vineland-based trucking company National Freight, based on evidence given to them by Cumberland County prosecutors. "The feeling here is that the defendants used National Freight to provide services to them (and) used Trident to hide their debts to National Freight, never intending to pay them," Casella said. The News of Cumberland County_ 9/6/09

San Antonio, Texas water system sues the Lower Colorado River Authority for $1.23 billion

San Antonio Water System is suing the Lower Colorado River Authority for $1.23 billion following the implosion of a massive water-sharing deal months ago. The potential multi-billion dollar water-sharing project ran aground after the river authority said it might not have enough water to meet the needs in its basin while also shipping water to San Antonio. Originally, the project was slated to send nearly 50 billion gallons of water to San Antonio each year at a total cost of about $900 million. Austin American-Statesman_ 8/24/09

Union Pacific settles alleged water violations at its construction sites

The federal government says Union Pacific Railroad Company has agreed to settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act in Nevada. The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday the company will restore 122 acres of mountain-desert streams and wetlands and implement storm water controls at its construction sites. Union Pacific also will pay $800,000 in civil penalties. The work is estimated to cost $31 million.  A complaint alleged the company violated the Clean Water Act in 2005 by not getting permits for construction and stream alteration work in the areas. AP_8/7/09

Kansas, Colorado seek to end lawsuit over Arkansas River water

State officials say Kansas and Colorado have ended a long-running lawsuit over the Arkansas River.  An agreement filed by the states Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court resolves final technical issues on monitoring Colorado's use of water from the river, to prevent its depletion.  Kansas filed suit in 1985 claiming water from the Arkansas was being improperly diverted in Colorado. The Supreme Court ruled a decade later that groundwater pumping in Colorado diverted millions of gallons of water rightfully belonging to Kansas. Colorado paid Kansas more than $34 million in damages.  Kansas City Star_8/6/09

Former San Jose, California water company employe accused of trying to embezzle $9 million arrested in England

A former California Water Service Co. employee who authorities say broke into the firm's computers to wire $9 million into overseas bank accounts and then fled the region when confronted with criminal charges has been arrested in the United Kingdom, according to San Jose police. Abdirahman Ismail Abdi, 33, fled the United States and was tracked through Canada before his arrest July 2 in the United Kingdom, where he is currently pending extradition back to the U.S., according to police. Court documents show Abdi had engineered three wire transfers totaling more than $9 million from the company's accounts to an account in Qatar. The accounts were frozen and the money returned to the water company, according to court papers. San Jose Mercury News_ 7/22/09

Oklahoma asks federal judge to dismiss Texas law suit seeking Oklahoma water

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Fort Worth-area water district in North Texas that wants to buy up to $60 million a year worth of Oklahoma water. The motion was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City. It involves a lawsuit filed by the Tarrant Regional Water District two years ago against members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The district alleges a moratorium on out-of-state water sales violates federal law. AP_ 7/10/09

It's now legal to catch a raindrop in Colorado

For the first time since territorial days, rain will be free for the catching in Colorado, as more and more thirsty states part ways with one of the most entrenched codes of the West: Rainwater Catchment.  Precipitation, every last drop or flake, was assigned ownership from the moment it fell in many Western states, making scofflaws of people who scooped rainfall from their own gutters. In some instances, the rights to that water were assigned a century or more ago.  Now two new laws in Colorado will allow many people to collect rainwater legally. The laws are the latest crack in the rainwater edifice, as other states, driven by population growth, drought, or declining groundwater in their aquifers, have already opened the skies or begun actively encouraging people to collect. New York Times_6/29/09

Kansas Supreme Court affirms ruling on water rights

The Kansas Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court ruling that a water district has the right to get a temporary easement to conduct groundwater test drilling on private property.  The case stemmed from a dispute between a Lawrence-area farmer, and other landowners against the Public Wholesale Water Supply District No. 25.  The water district said the landowners couldn’t fight its efforts because they don’t own the water the district wanted to test.  The Supreme Court said Friday said that although “the landowners have standing to object to a temporary easement on their property,” they can’t object to the condemnation of water rights they don’t own.  Kansas City Star_6/29/09

California Supreme Court: County has no duty to warn of contaminated water
California's high court yesterday rebuffed efforts by 80 residents of a mobile home park located in central California’s picturesque Carmel Valley who spent more than eight years drinking contaminated water to recover monetary damages against Monterey County.  Reversing the Sixth District Court of Appeal, the unanimous California Supreme Court held that the Safe Drinking Water Act does not impose an implied duty on counties to warn residents of contamination.  Metnews_6/23/09

U.S. Supreme Court allows mining rock waste to be dumped in Alaska lake

The Supreme Court today upheld a federal permit for a company to dump rock waste from a new Alaska gold mine into a nearby lake. By a 6-3 vote, the justices reversed a federal appeals court decision that the waste disposal permit for the Kensington gold mine 45 miles north of Juneau violated the federal Clean Water Act. Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp., is developing Kensington. The court ruling clears the way for as much as 4.5 million tons of mine tailings -- a slurry of rock waste, water and trace contaminants left after gold is extracted from the ore -- to be deposited into Lower Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest and about three miles from the mine. Filling the lake with tailings would kill its resident fish, but the lake could be restocked with fish after the mine closed, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which approved the controversial waste disposal permit. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council decried the ruling, saying it will open the door for the nation's lakes and streams to be used as mine tailings "dumps." SEAC, the Sierra Club and Lynn Canal Conservation were the groups that sued the government over the waste-disposal permit. Anchorage Daily News_ 6/22/09

Former lab owner accused of filing phony water tests
The former owner of an environmental testing laboratory in Westford, Mass. was indicted yesterday for submitting falsified water testing reports to the Department of Environmental Protection for several municipalities, according to authorities.  Michael Carlson, 56, of Westford, who is the former owner of Thorstensen Laboratory Inc., was indicted by a Middlesex grand jury yesterday on 50 counts of making false reports to the Department of Environmental Protection. He is accused of filing false reports for a number of municipalities, including Ashby, Chicopee, Harvard, and Lawrence, authorities said.  Boston.com_6/11/09

California water-firm worker sought in $9.2 million theft

A former California Water Service Co. employee is being sought on a federal warrant on charges that he fled the country after wiring $9.2 million of the firm's money into overseas bank accounts on the same day he resigned, court records show. Abdirahman Ismail Abdi, who turns 33 on Monday, also faces charges of grand theft and unauthorized computer access in Santa Clara County. The transactions were flagged as suspicious, authorities said, and the money was returned to Cal Water, a privately owned water utility with 460,000 customers in California. San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/14/09

Southwest Water Company receives $60 million in settlement of New Mexico eminent domain case

Los Angeles, California-based SouthWest Water Company (NASDAQ:SWWC) today announced that it received $60 million from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority in settlement of eminent domain proceedings involving the company’s subsidiary, New Mexico Utilities Inc. The settlement resolves all legal issues between the two parties, including the dispute over the sewer fee charged to New Mexico Utilities for the treatment of wastewater, according to the news release. As part of the settlement, $7 million was paid to the Water Utility Authority at the time of closing to resolve the sewer fee issue, for which SouthWest Water had established a reserve. SouthWest Water used the remaining proceeds to retire debt of approximately $12 million and to pay down its credit facility. SouthWest Water Company serves more than a million people in 9 states. News Release/Business Wire_ 5/11/09

Montreal, Canada criminal complaint focuses on water meter deal

The storm of corruption allegations lashing Montreal city hall has intensified as a major city politician has filed a criminal complaint implicating nine people in the scandals orbiting the awarding of a record $356-million water meter contract. Richard Bergeron, leader of the Projet Montreal Party, filed the complaint Friday with the Sûreté du Québec. Last night, SQ Sgt. Martine Isabelle would not confirm or deny that the force is investigating the meter contract, citing standard policy. Montreal Gazette_ 5/3/09

Colorado Supreme Court rules water from natural gas drilling must be regulated

Energy companies drilling natural gas from underground coal seams must obtain water well permits or replace the water they use if other water supplies are affected, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday. Groundwater pumped out during coal-bed methane drilling is not just a waste product, the court said, ruling on a lawsuit by landowners who say their water supplies are threatened by companies using groundwater to free natural gas in coal seams. AP/Denver Post_ 4/20/09

Tennessee couple files suit over waste pumped into water line

A Robertson County couple has filed a lawsuit against two city utility services for sickness they say was caused when residential waste contaminated a water main serving about 1,000 residents. The lawsuit against the White House Utility District and the city of Nashville claims the mix-up occurred when a home septic tank was accidentally connected to a drinking water line last April and then went unnoticed for months. AP/Tennessean_ 4/6/09

Guilty plea by city water director
The public works director for the city of Harlem in east Georgia has pleaded guilty to three counts of falsifying water-quality records in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.  Each of the charges carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Seven other charges accusing 65-year-old Daniel Webster Cason of falsifying records and a charge of dumping a pollutant into a tributary of Euchee Creek were dropped Tuesday.  LedgerEnquirier_4/1/09

U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on North Carolina-South Carolina water dispute

The Court said it would hear oral argument, presumably at its next Term, on a report by Special Master Kristin Linsley Myles over water flows in the 225-mile long Catawba River. The river provides drinking water to 1.3 million people. The report by Myles is an interim recommendation that the Court allow non-state parties to join in an Original case as intervenors. Thus, it does not deal with the merits of the controversy over dividing up allotments of the Catawba’s waters. The dispute over intervention is sufficiently significant that the U.S. Solicitor General has joined in the case as an amicus. The Court allowed South Carolina to file its lawsuit on Dec. 1, 2007. SCOTUSblog_ 3/30/09

Grass roots legal action opposes 300% rate increase
Residents and users of a small Illinois water district have filed a class action lawsuit in the state courts charging Lake County with neglect and breach of contract. The suit maintains that the county failed to keep the system in compliance with state and federal laws; failed to maintain the infrastructure; failed to maintain a reasonable depreciation as required by state law and failed to provide chlorination.  Lake County is under court orders to replace the system.  The plaintiffs claim residents face a surcharge of  $20,000 -25,000 per home and a 300% increase in water bills. Press Release_ 3/26/09

Patriot Coal Corp. to pay $50,000 to settle Clean Water Act case in West Virginia

Under the consent decree with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Inc and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Inc the company also agreed to implement a $350,000 pilot project that uses reverse osmosis technology to evaluate its feasibility for use in selenium treatment in coal mines. Last month, the company agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle claims that it violated its permits more than 1,400 times, between January 2003 and December 2007, at its mining complexes in West Virginia. Reuters_ 3/24/09

U.S. Supreme Court supports Colorado in legal fee dispute with Kansas over Arkansas River water

The Supreme Court has rejected claims by Kansas that it is owed $9 million in legal fees from Colorado over their century-long dispute over water rights to the Arkansas River. In an opinion Monday, the court is upholding a ruling by a special master appointed to oversee the case that the fees for expert witnesses should be about $163,000, not the $9 million sought by Kansas. Colorado already had agreed to pay Kansas more than $34 million after the high court decided in 1995 that groundwater pumping in Colorado diverted millions of gallons of upstream water that rightfully belonged to Kansas. AP/CBS_ 3/9/09

Missouri sues Feds over planned water diversion
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has sued the U.S. government to thwart the planned diversion of Missouri River water to North Dakota.  The U.S. Department of Interior last month approved the $17.5 million water treatment plan for the Northwest Area Water Supply project, which would redirect about 15,000 acre feet of water annually from Lake Sakakawea.  The water would go to taps in northwestern North Dakota. Koster said the plan poses "actual and imminent harm to Missouri citizens." Legalnewsline_2/25/09

Federal court ruling supports coal mining

The latest in a series of federal court rulings on mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia came down firmly on the side of the coal industry on Friday. The ruling, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., overturned a 2007 decision that supported environmentalists’ claims that the Army Corps of Engineers had improperly issued permits for several such mining operations. For more than a decade, environmental campaigners have tried various legal avenues to fight the mining technique, a form of strip-mining that blasts the tops off mountains and dumps the leftover rock in valleys, burying streams. The case, heard by three judges on the federal appeals panel, focused on whether the corps had been too liberal in allowing mining companies to bury streams as long as they created settling ponds and promised to transform drainage ditches into artificial streams that, in theory, might filter out contamination. The corps is responsible for preventing actions that could harm waters in the United States. New York Times_ 2/13/09

South Carolina attorney general says intervention in law suit by power company and several towns is costing the state money

In 2007, Attorney General Henry McMaster filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop North Carolina from draining water from the 225-mile long Catawba River, which provides drinking water to 1.3 million people. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case. Last year, the special master appointed by justices to help resolve the dispute allowed the city of Charlotte, Duke Energy and a water system serving Union County, N.C., and Lancaster County, S.C., to enter the case and submit arguments of their own. McMaster says the case should just be between the states, not individual municipalities or other entities. AP/MSNBC_ 2/5/09

Orange and black tap water in West Virginia sparks law suit over slurry

Two hundred fifty people in West Virginia with orange and black water in their taps, tubs and toilets are suing eight coal companies they believe poisoned their wells by pumping mine wastes into former underground mines. The lawsuit filed recently in Boone County Circuit Court claims decades of surface and underground mining activities near the communities of Prenter and Seth fractured the geologic strata that had contained the slurry, a byproduct of cleaning the coal. It claims the network of cracks created a pathway for the slurry to contaminate the aquifer. Testing revealed varying levels of arsenic, lead, iron, manganese and sulfides, according the report an environmental consultant hired by the plaintiffs filed with the court. But the state Department of Environmental Protection, which permits and monitors coal slurry injection sites, disagrees. AP_ 2/3/09

January, 2009

Florida judge OKs water withdrawal from St. Johns River

A Florida administrative law judge has recommended that the St. Johns River Water Management District approve Seminole County's plan to withdraw 5.5 million gallons daily from the river. The permit for diverting the surface water for use in Seminole County's water supply was challenged by several entities, including the the city of Jacksonville, St. Johns County and the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Judge J. Lawrence Johnston's 66-page ruling was released on Monday. The water management district announced Tuesday its governing board would hold a public hearing on Seminole County's permit request at its March 10 meeting and then hold a vote. Seminole County's plan is the first of what the water management district says could be 200 million of gallons to be taken every day from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers for use as potable water by communities in the Orlando area. WJXT/MSNBC_ 1/13/09

Not guilty pleas for 4 in Nevada water fraud case

A federal judge entered not guilty pleas Tuesday for the Truckee Carson Irrigation District and four of its employees accused of falsifying records to secure extra water supplies from the U.S. government.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert McQuaid Jr. also agreed during a brief hearing to allow all four men to remain free without bail. He set their trial for Feb. 23.  The four are charged in an indictment handed up Dec. 5 with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, falsification of records, false claims and false statements.  Prosecutors say they were part of a scheme to inflate water delivery data so as to secure extra water credits from the bureau to boost supplies primarily for area farmers and ranchers from 2000-05.  If convicted, they could face 20 years or more in prison.  San Jose Mercury News_1/6/09

Groups to sue EPA over failure to clean up pollution in Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and several fishing groups will file suit today accusing the federal government of shirking its legal responsibilities to clean up the troubled estuary, officials of the Annapolis-based environmental group said yesterday. The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, contends that the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to comply with the Clean Water Act and with multiple interstate agreements the agency has signed over the past 25 years aimed at restoring the bay. The bay's water quality has worsened during the past two decades, University of Maryland research shows. Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker said yesterday that the group decided to sue after the EPA and bay state leaders acknowledged last summer that they did not expect to achieve by 2010 cleanup goals they had set eight years earlier - and were considering pushing back their self-imposed deadline to 2020 or even later. Baltimore Sun_ 1/5/09

December, 2008

California water agencies sue to stop reduction in water supples

The State Water Contractors, a statewide organization of 27 public water agencies, filed a lawsuit today against the California Fish & Game Commission and the California Department of Fish & Game challenging the Commission's Nov. 14 decision to potentially impose substantial cuts in State Water Project (SWP) water deliveries to much of the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California in an effort to protect the longfin smelt. The regulation could reduce water deliveries by the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project by more than a million acre feet in the face of the ongoing drought currently impacting California, the contractors said in a news release. The release said this is enough water to meet the needs of more than five million Californians for a year. The State Water Project and Central Valley Project are California's primary water delivery systems - a cutback in water deliveries of the size that may occur as a result of the challenged regulation will would have very costly impacts on California's economy and the 25 million residents and millions of acres of farmland served by SWP and CVP water, the news release said. The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. News Release/PRNewswire/MarketWatch_ 12/9/08

Four indicted in Nevada water scam
Nevada's Truckee-Carson Irrigation District and four of its Fallon employees were indicted Wednesday on 10 charges of conspiring to defraud the federal government, making false claims and falsifying records in a scam to secure Sierra water and gain credits from the federal government.  The indictment charges the four manipulated or disabled water meters, changed numbers on water-use reports and submitted inflated figures from 2000 to 2005 to secure additional water credits from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Part of the money earned through their alleged water diversion scheme was used to pay a civil lawsuit won by the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe, which had sued the district in 1995 for illegally diverting water that should have gone to Pyramid Lake and caused it to drop by 70 feet.  The four men and the district are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Reno. If convicted, they could face fines ip to $250,000 for each of the 10 counts and up to 20 years in prison for each of the three falsification of records counts and five years for the conspiracy to defraud and each of the three false claims and false statement counts.  Reno Gazette-Journal_12/4/08

U.S. Supreme Court may back power plants, EPA on Clean Water Act interpretation

U.S. Supreme Court justices voiced support for letting federal regulators balance costs against benefits in deciding whether to impose new requirements on power plants to protect aquatic wildlife. Hearing arguments today in Washington, several justices questioned a lower court decision that said the Environmental Protection Agency can’t conduct a cost-benefit analysis in regulating how power plants use water from rivers and lakes to cool themselves. Power companies and the Bush administration are seeking to overturn that ruling, which is supported by environmentalists and some states. The fight turns on a Clean Water Act provision that requires the “best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact.” Bloomberg_ 12/2/08

Federal appeals court to hear Mississippi vs. Memphis, Tennessee water lawsuit

A federal appeals court will hear arguments in a lawsuit that accuses the city of Memphis, Tenn., of stealing millions of gallons of Mississippi water. U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson in February dismissed the $1 billion lawsuit, which was filed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood in 2005. It is now set to go before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Dec. 3. Hood sued the city of Memphis and the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, accusing them of tapping into a vast supply of pure water in an aquifer under parts of Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. AP/Forbes_ 11/3/08

Three former managers of a Michigan waste treatment plant convicted of dumping untreated waste into the Detroit sewer system

They were convicted of federal Clean Water Act violations. A 12-member jury in U.S. District Court in Detroit found Michael G. Panyard, 46, of Pleasant Ridge, the former general manager, guilty of nine counts including conspiracy, making false statements to investigators and the Clean Water Act violations. The jury of nine women and three men found former plant manager Charles D. Long, 43, of Brownstown Township, guilty of conspiracy and violating the clean water act. Unlike the other two men, former chief executive officer Bryan S. J. Mallindine, 51, of Carlsbad California was found guilty of a misdemeanor count of violating the Clean Water Act, but acquitted him of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Long and Panyard were found guilty of a felony count of violating the clean water act. The three men worked for Comprehensive Environmental Solutions Inc. in Dearborn. The men are to be sentenced March 5 by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, who presided over the trial. Detroit Free Press_ 10/21/08

Waiting years for clean water in Eastern Kentucky

Although the water has not been tested for toxins such as sulfur, iron and sewage and leaves a black film around her coffee pot each morning, 73-year-old Letcher County widow Vina Lucas still uses it for bathing, cooking and washing clothes. Lucas is one of about 100 people in the Camp Branch area whose water wells were contaminated or suddenly went dry in the late 1990s. Many have filed lawsuits blaming Golden Oak Mining Co., which was mining coal under the community at the time. Golden Oak has since closed the mine and filed for protection under federal bankruptcy laws. Last week, a Letcher Circuit Court jury awarded Lucas and four other families nearly $650,000 to be divided roughly equally among them. The amount included compensation for lowered property values and the company's failure to provide replacement water for the families. While water contamination complaints relating to mining are common in Eastern Kentucky, rulings against the coal companies aren't, said Ned Pillersdorf of Prestonsburg, one of the attorneys for Lucas and the other families. Herald-Leader_ 9/21/08

Prosecutor: New Hampshire drinking water had uranium in it

The water company in Tamworth, New Hampshire, has been charged with knowingly delivering water to customers that was contaminated with uranium. Indictments in Superior Court in Ossipee accuse the Lakes Region Water Co. of knowingly delivering the contaminated water during a three-week period last year from a well that state environmental officials had ordered shut off. Lawyer Jim Rosenberg said the family-owned company, based in Moultonborough, cut off the tainted water as soon as it was brought to the company's attention. Lakes Region Water has 1,606 customers. Separately, some residents in Tamworth are suing the company based on a month-long fecal bacteria scare in the summer of 2007. Boston Globe_ 9/15/08

Minnesota's Cold Spring Brewing fined $39,960 over water quality violations

The Cold Spring Brewing Co. has agreed to a financial penalty from the state over allegations of water-quality violations, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced today. In addition to the $39,960 civil penalty, the MPCA required Cold Spring Brewing to act to ensure future compliance at its energy drink and beer production facility in Cold Spring. Minneapolis Star-Tribune_ 8/25/08

Philippines: Former Metropolitan water chief accused of plunder

Former Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System administrator Lorenzo Jamora and five others have been accused of plunder before the Department of Justice for allegedly misappropriating more than half of the water firm’s P791 million restricted fund. The six-page complaint claims that if the funds had not been misappropriated, the MWSS Board, led by Oscar Garcia, would not have needed to borrow funds from the Philippine National Bank and Land Bank of the Philippines to pay for the benefits of 1,400 retired employees. Manila Standard_ 8/2/08

Former Severn Trent's water bosses escape action

Severn Trent Water has announced it will not take action against former management over its £2 million fine for giving false information on leakages. The company also said it would not appeal against the fine, issued in July for offences in 2001 and 2002. Chairman Sir John Egan said there were "indefensible shortcomings" in Severn Trent's previous leadership. He said the current management had spent four years putting the firm back on track. BBC News_ 7/22/08

Canada sets trial for Detroit-based DTE Energy in water pollution suit

An Ontario, Canada, court has ruled that the trial of a U.S. power plant charged with contaminating Canadian waters with mercury will go ahead in February. A private citizen, Scott Edwards, accuses Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. of violating the 2005 Fisheries Act. Edwards, a legal director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, alleges the DTE plant emits 2,000 pounds of mercury annually that adversely affects Canadian fish habitat. DTE has argued that the plant operates in compliance with Michigan law. AP/Forbes_ 7/8/08 (logon required)

Officials fine Severn Trent, Britain's second largest water company, £2 million (US$4 million) for lying about leaks

The firm, which has eight million customers, had faced an unlimited fine. The Serious Fraud Office had reportedly hoped for a £70m penalty in line with fines imposed by water regulator Ofwat. Judge Jeremy Roberts was asked to make an example of Severn Trent to deter others. But he was restricted by legal precedents, particularly health and safety offences which involved loss of life. Severn Trent Water, which covers an area from the Bristol Channel to the Midlands, was the first company to be prosecuted for lying about its leaks. It pleaded guilty to two offences under the Water Industry Act of making false returns to Ofwat concerning 2001 and 2002. The court was told the company reported an estimated yearly water loss of 340 million litres per day to meet targets, while the true figure was around 514 million litres. This was to stave off having to carry out millions of pounds-worth of repairs until they could be covered by future water bills, and to avoid bad publicity Sky News_ 7/1/08

June, 2008

Detroit City Council investigated by FBI over sewage contract

The Detroit City Council voted 5-4 last November to award Synagro Technologies, Inc. a contract to handle the city's processed sewage for close to $47 million a year. The FBI has been investigating allegations of corruption in connection with the contract, two persons familiar with the investigation said. The investigation of the waste contract is part of a broader investigation involving several City Hall contracts that has been active in the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for several years. The contract involves hauling of sewage and also provides for the construction of a plant that would incinerate part of the sludge and convert part of it into a crop fertilizer. Detroit News_ 6/28/08

EPA fines four major home builders in Clean Water Act violations case

Four major home builders, including Los Angeles-based KB Home, have agreed to pay $4.3 million in fines to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act involving hundreds of construction sites nationwide, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday. The four separate settlements are the result of a federal investigation into storm-water management and compliance efforts between 2001 and 2004, according to the companies named in the complaints. The greatest number of alleged violations occurred in California. Complaints also were filed this week against Pulte Homes of Bloomfield, Mich.; Centex Homes, based in Dallas; and Richmond American Homes, based in Denver. The complaints allege that the companies violated storm-water runoff regulations at construction sites in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Alleged violations include failure to obtain a permit before construction and failure to prevent or minimize discharge of pollutants, such as silt and debris, in storm-water runoff. The Clean Water Act requires construction sites to have controls, such as silt fences and sediment basins, to prevent contaminants from flowing into waterways. Pollutants from concrete, lubricants, paint, pesticides and other debris can mix with storm water, and the runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife as well as affect drinking water quality. Los Angeles Times_ 6/12/08 (logon required)

Nevada rancher awarded $4.2 million for 'taken' water right

A judge awarded more than $4.2 million to a late Nevada rancher's estate after finding that the U.S. Forest Service engaged in an unconstitutional "taking" of water rights out of hostility to the rancher, a property rights activist. The decision by U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Loren A. Smith involved the Fifth Amendment clause against private property being taken for public use without just compensation. Smith said, the taking occurred when the Forest Service made it impossible for rancher Wayne Hage to maintain irrigation ditches, which deprived the ranch of water and made it unviable. The judge also ordered the government to pay back interest to Hage's family. A lawyer estimated the interest dating to 1991 would be an additional $4.4 million. AP_ 6/11/08

U.S. Supreme Court rules for Deleware in river dispute with New Jersey

For many decades, the states of Delaware and New Jersey have fought over the river that separates them. On Monday, Delaware won the latest battle, as the Supreme Court said it could block New Jersey’s plan to build a huge gas-processing plant on its side of the Delaware River. By 6 to 2, the court ruled that Delaware could bar the $600 million plant that BP wanted to build in Logan Township, N.J. A crucial part of the project — fatal, as it turned out, for New Jersey — was a 2,000-foot pier that would have extended from the New Jersey shore to the navigable part of the river, so that tankers could dock and unload. The majority, in an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sided with Delaware, declaring that the states have overlapping authority to regulate riparian facilities of “extraordinary character." The tone of the latest dispute has been both bitter and frivolous, as Justice Ginsburg noted. New Jersey has threatened to pull state pension funds from Delaware banks. Delaware officials, meanwhile, talked about calling up its National Guard to guard its border. Finally, a New Jersey legislator wondered aloud about recommissioning the battleship New Jersey, now a museum on the Camden waterfront, just in case. New York Times_ 3/31/08 (logon required)

Metro Detroit water users await $24 million rebate

One year after a federal judge ruled Detroit charged water and sewer customers across southeastern Michigan $24 million too much for a controversial $131 million digital radio system, residents still haven't seen a rebate and continue to spend money on U.S. District Judge John Feikens' hand-picked consultants. The $24 million rebate could have been used to reduce proposed water and sewer rate increases, Oakland County Drain Commissioner John McCulloch said. Since April 2007, Feikens has approved $1.4 million in contracts and bills from a team of consultants and spread the debt among Detroit Water and Sewerage customers in 126 communities across southeastern Michigan, federal court records show. That's in addition to $9.3 million in payments made to some of the same consultants over the previous five years. Yet federal court records and interviews give no indication Feikens is close to unveiling his long-delayed $800 million plan for giving suburbs more control over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department -- a plan opposed by both Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and suburban leaders. Feikens declined comment but has previously said his team of consultants ensures compliance with pollution laws, saves residents money by scrutinizing contracts and offers hope of resolving a lingering dispute between Detroit, which owns the utility, and suburbs, which want more control over it. Detroit News_ 3/14/08

Environmental groups sue Los Angeles County and Malibu, seeking cleanup of water

Two environmental groups sued Los Angeles County and the city of Malibu on Monday in an attempt to force them to clean up contaminated water and urban runoff discharged into coastal waters. The two lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court, come nine months after the groups filed their intent to sue. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Santa Monica Baykeeper claim in the lawsuits that the county and city disregarded clean water standards. Data kept by the county showed Malibu Creek and the Santa Clara, Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers exceed safe levels of cyanide, aluminum and fecal coliform, the groups said. Mark Pestrella, assistant deputy director for the county Department of Public Works, said the lawsuits lacked merit. Pestrella noted that the county developed a program a decade ago that was overseen by the regional water quality control board to pinpoint the type and source of pollutants flowing into the bay. Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen said that he had not seen the lawsuits but that the city has been in "productive discussions" with the environmental groups about water standards. AP/International Herald Tribune_ 3/3/08

Call for mob probe of New York's Croton water filtration plant

Allegation of mob extortion at the controversial Croton Water Filtration Plant project in Van Cortlandt Park have a longtime project opponent renewing his call for an investigation. The call by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Riverdale) comes a week after major federal indictments against the Gambino crime family that exposed links to construction projects around the city. "Outrage over astronomical cost overruns on the project have been well-documented," said Dinowitz. "But with the arrests of organized crime figures, including an executive from Schiavone Construction, one of the filtration project's largest contractors, it is imperative that the public be fully apprised of the extent of the influence of organized crime." Schiavone Construction, a New Jersey-based contractor with a $1.3 billion deal with the city Department of Environmental Protection to help build Croton Water Treatment Plant and Water Tunnel No. 3, was implicated by an FBI informant in the Gambino case. Dinowitz, local elected officials and community advocates have railed at the near tripling of the cost of the plant, and refuse to accept DEP's explanation that inflation and spikes in the cost of materials are to blame. Daily News_ 2/19/08

Justices let Montana pursue water suit against Wyoming
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday said Montana can pursue its lawsuit that charges Wyoming with using too much water from a pair of rivers that flow between the states.  Montana argues Wyoming's agricultural and energy industries are depleting the Tongue and Powder rivers at the expense of downstream residents in Montana. In a complaint filed last year, Montana asked the court to order Wyoming to leave more water in the rivers and award damages and other relief. It did not specify amounts.  Wyoming officials dispute the charge, saying both states are suffering because of a prolonged drought.  Tuesday's order also allowed Wyoming 45 days to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  That means the case could be decided more quickly than previously expected, possibly avoiding the need for a court-appointed special master -- essentially a hearing officer -- to oversee proceedings.  Both sides have welcomed the chance to make their case directly to the court. That could avoid the substantial expense of a drawn-out legal battle.  Los Angeles Times_2/20/08

Suit pins bad water in California's Tulare County on dairies

Tulare County, home of major dairy operations such as Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Kraft Foods cheese factories, hosts the nation's highest concentration of milk cows – and tainted drinking water to show for it. When 181 households volunteered their wells for state testing a few years ago, about 40 percent learned they were drinking unsafe amounts of nitrate, a contaminant generally linked to livestock waste. More than 20 percent of the state-regulated public water systems in the county also failed the nitrate test. Several schools shut off drinking water fountains. On Friday a group of residents, many of them farm laborers, filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court alleging that state water pollution regulators failed to protect their drinking water supply. They want the state to require the 1,600 dairies in the Central Valley to line the bottoms of wastewater ponds and to better monitor groundwater quality. Lawyers with the nonprofit Environmental Law Foundation in Oakland and the Community Water Center in the Tulare County seat of Visalia filed the suit on the residents' behalf. The suit targets the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, which enforces the state's water pollution laws. The environmentalists and residents want the court to toss out a pollution permit that the state board issued last May to the Valley's 1,600 dairies. Sacramento Bee_ 2/16/08

Feds indict 3 in fraud scheme on military water purification contracts

A federal grand jury has indicted a Florida couple and a North Carolina man in what prosecutors call a scheme to rig millions of dollars of water purification contracts for United States military units overseas, officials said Tuesday. The accused — Richard E. Long, 63, and Debra L. Long, 44, of St. Augustine, Fla., and Mack S. Smith, 56, of Bladenboro, N.C. — are charged with conspiracy, bribery of a public official, wire fraud and money laundering, said David E. Nahmias, a United States attorney. From 2001 to 2007, Mr. Smith paid the Longs about $553,700, including down payments for two homes in St. Augustine, the indictment said. According to the indictment, Richard Long was a civilian employee of the Department of the Army Forces Command as water and petroleum program manager from late 1996 through 2004. Based at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Mr. Long was responsible for reviewing bids from private contractors for water-related military contracts. Mr. Smith owned Watec Inc., a Tennessee company that provided water-purification equipment and servicing. The indictment said that starting about October 1998, he made secret payments through Mrs. Long in exchange for her husband’s recommendation that every water-purification contract be awarded to Watec. AP/New York Times_ 2/13/08 (logon required)

Canadian judge to rule on Texas farmers' water fight with Mexico

More than 40 Texas farmers, ranchers and irrigation districts are gearing up to take their long-standing water war with Mexico to the next level, which in this case is a Canadian judge. The farmers, who have run up legal bills of about $500,000, sued Mexico in 2004 for $500 million, arguing they had been shorted on Rio Grande River water from 1992 to 2002 in violation of a 1944 treaty. In June, a tribunal operating under the North American Free Trade Agreement decided it had no jurisdiction to hear the case in which Washington sided with Mexico. The groups now plan to ask a Canadian judge - considered a neutral arbitrator - on March 25 whether the tribunal erred and deprived them of a fair hearing. Canadian Press_ 2/10/08

Former West Palm Beach, Florida lab tech's claim that she was told to label tainted water clean sparks investigation

Mayor Lois Frankel this week ordered an internal investigation into allegations made by a former city lab technician that she found bacteria in water samples as early as June and a supervisor told her to falsify her results on lab records. The city's water system has been under investigation by health officials and hired water experts since September, when fecal bacteria was detected, triggering a 30-day boil-water order. Since then, the city has been flushing extra chlorine through 600 miles of pipes as experts, hired to analyze and fix the 113-year-old system, remain baffled about the source of the contamination. Louise Wardell, 43, of Boca Raton, had worked as a lab technician for the city for 13 years, until she was placed on probation on Nov. 15 and fired Feb. 1. Her termination letter said she was being fired for "incompetence and inefficiency in your job duties." Wardell said that in routine lab tests last June, she discovered what she described as "dark red colonies of bacteria." She said she had been trained to next test to determine what kind of bacteria. But when she brought the sample to the attention of supervisors, she said she was told to throw out the samples and mark an "A" on lab records, which denotes the absence of bacteria. Wardell said that about two weeks later, management changed policy and instructed lab technicians who find such results to conduct further testing. Wardell said the FBI questioned the technicians in the fall about the contamination. Wardell told the agents about the June test results and being asked to falsify lab records. Sun-Sentinel_ 2/9/08

January, 2008

California city fined $220,000 for water pollution
A state water quality regulator has slapped the city of Dixon with a $220,000 fine for allegedly polluting groundwater in Solano County.  The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board had issued the city three cease-and-desist order for the city's wastewater treatment plant in 1996, 1997 and 2005 because of insufficient capacity and groundwater pollution, according to a water board press release. The board said the city has never fully complied with those orders and has taken no action to alleviate the problem, caused by excessive salt in the city's sewage.  The city has asked for more time to comply with the order.  East Bay Business Times_1/30/08

Sacramento, California water supervisor pleads guilty in federal bribery case

Barry Holland, 60, Sacramento's former water superintendent has pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks in return for shipping used city-owned water meters to a recycler. Federal prosecutors say that between 1999 and 2005 he accepted more than $10,000 in cash and $15,000 worth of machinery—two air motors and a tapping machine. As part of his plea agreement, Holland has agreed to repay the city $10,372 and cooperate in the ongoing investigation. The bribery charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. AP/San Jose Mercury-News_ 1/25/08 (logon required)

Water tanks finally arrive in Australia, sort of

They're here – but there are only 88 of them and we're not allowed to see them. The man behind the Jim's Water Tanks debacle has claimed the first shipment of his much-vaunted half-moon tanks have arrived in Brisbane from China – nine months after many of his 5500 frustrated customers were told they would be delivered. But company owner Alan Bradley Jorgensen rejected an offer from The Courier-Mail to have a photographer attend the long-awaited arrival at the loading dock late last week. "They delivered them at night so you wouldn't have been able to see them," Mr Jorgensen said. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has been investigating Jim's Water Tanks since July for failing to deliver about 5500 rainwater tanks, mostly from China to customers mainly around southeast Queensland. Mr Jorgensen was due to face the Supreme Court last month but a liquidation request from ASIC was delayed until January 29. Courier-Mail_ 1/1/08

December, 2007

Pennsylvania court orders Pittsburgh-area water company to pay for road damage

A Pittsburgh-area water authority will have to pay for all road damage caused by breaks in its lines and reimburse the state for past problems. The state Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. PennDOT filed suit against the West View Water Authority, which had refused to pay to repair roads damaged by ruptures in their water lines. Such ruptures tear up asphalt and concrete. The ruling could save up to 30 Pittsburgh-area communities thousands of dollars each year. In addition, the Supreme Court has ordered West View to repay PennDOT tens of thousands of dollars it paid to repair water-damaged roads. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review/AP/San Francisco Examiner_ 12/31/07

Guilty plea in California 'water company' impersonation thefts; others still at large

A man who posed as a water company employee to rob seniors throughout the South Bay over the summer faces 10 years in prison, a Santa Clara County prosecutor said Thursday. David Milano, 40, of San Jose, pleaded guilty to felony charges of burglary, false imprisonment of an elder, false personation and resisting arrest on Tuesday. He worked with others posing as water company employees to gain the trust of seniors throughout the Bay Area. The people he worked with in the burglaries are still at large, said Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard. The group - normally working in pairs - would tell homeowners that there was a broken water pipe down the street and that they needed to check water pressure at the house. Luring the resident into the back yard to run a hose, another thief would enter the home and steal valuables. The group targeted elderly people. Bourlard said the victims range in age from 75 to 95. One, she said, is a World War II veteran. According to San Jose police, there were at least 28 burglaries in which robbers claimed to be from the water company. San Jose Mercury-News_ 12/21/07

Fort Wayne Indiana presses ahead on takeover of private water and wastewater utility

Despite recent legal challenges, Fort Wayne City Utilities moved forward Wednesday with its takeover of Aqua Indiana’s northern utility after the new year.  The Fort Wayne Board of Public Works approved the terms and conditions of the $16.9 million purchase, which will move 9,000 water customers and 1,600 sewer customers from the private utility to the city’s system.  Under the approved plan, the city will officially take ownership of the utility’s assets and customers Jan. 8. The city had previously said it would try to take over the system immediately after Christmas, but Ted Nitza, the city’s contractor for the acquisition, said that after discussions with the company’s corporate office, the city determined it would be better to wait until January.  Nitza said Mayor-elect Tom Henry has been briefed on the acquisition.  The board’s action comes two days after Aqua Indiana filed for an injunction in Allen Superior Court to halt the transfer of assets until certain legal questions can be answered, namely, whether the city properly followed the law in how it condemned the private utility.  Nitza told the board it was appropriate to move forward now with the takeover, saying the company is the only one who benefits by delays, raking in nearly $200,000 a month in revenue.  “City Utilities stands ready to bring better water to those northern customers at a lower cost,” he said.  The company has argued the city’s price tag is too low and a judge may double or triple it, forcing the city to pay millions more, which would cost those transitioning utility customers more each month. The private utility also sued the city Friday, alleging the city has charged illegally high sewage rates.  The Journal Gazette_12/13/07

Oklahoma may appeal ruling allowing water lawsuit to go forward

The state of Oklahoma may appeal a federal judge's ruling that allows a Texas group's lawsuit to obtain 150 billion gallons of water per year from Oklahoma streams to proceed.  U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton said the state's reasons for seeking dismissal of the lawsuit by the Tarrant Regional Water District are "unpersuasive."  Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said the state can either appeal Heaton's ruling or prepare for trial.  Jim Oliver, general manager of the Texas water district, praised the ruling.  "This case is about discriminatory restrictions on trade and unwillingness on the part of the state of Oklahoma to even talk about the possible sale or transfer of water across state lines. This is clearly a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause," Oliver said.  Edmondson said it's too early to say whether the moratorium on out-of-state water sales imposed by lawmakers in 2001 is in jeopardy.  Legislators banned such sales after learning that former Gov. Frank Keating's administration planned to sell water to Texas and split the profits with the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations.  The Tarrant Regional Water District, based in Fort Worth, Texas, sued the state in January, saying the moratorium violates federal interstate commerce laws.  District officials then filed permits with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in case they win the lawsuit.  If approved, the permits would give the Texas group the water for free, said Miles Tolbert, Oklahoma's environment secretary.  The water district is seeking 460,000 acre feet or 150 billion gallons annually.  Tolbert said that's as much as the combined water used by every city, town and county in Oklahoma each year.  Chron.com_10/31/07

Federal judge refuses to stop water use at planned Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada

A federal judge has denied motions by Nevada attorneys to force the Department of Energy to stop using the state's water for all bore hole drilling operations at the planned Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt urged lawyers for both sides to sit down and work out their differences rather than "dig in their heels" in the fight over water at the site. "I am directing — sharply suggesting, short of requiring — that the parties get together seriously and reasonably," Hunt said Thursday after announcing his decision without hearing arguments. Hunt said neither party can claim they won this case, yet. At issue is whether the federal government can use the state's water for drilling on the site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Nevada opposes the planned nuclear waste dump and has tried to cut off water use. AP/Deseret Morning News_ 9/21/07

Court punishes Moses for parting the waters

A man called Moses who tried to part the waters of an Idaho creek for a real estate development project violated the Clean Water Act and should go to prison, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday. Real estate broker and developer Charles Moses sought to reshape the flow of Idaho's Teton Creek near a housing development starting in the 1980s. He argued that he was not increasing pollutants into U.S. waters and did not heed U.S. agencies ordering him to stop. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did not agree with Moses' arguments and upheld a district court sentence of a year and a half in prison for each of the three-counts of his conviction. Reuters_ 8/3/07

July, 2007

Federal appeals court revives Warren, Michigan's suit over Detroit drinking water overcharges

Warren sued Detroit in state court in 2002, alleging the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department was overcharging its customers by more than $1 million a year. Warren has its own sewage treatment plant and alleged Detroit, which provides water to more than 100 area municipalities, included sewage-related charges in its rate calculation. Detroit moved the Warren lawsuit to federal court in Detroit, where U.S. District Judge John Feikens dismissed the case in 2006. Feikens had earlier denied Warren's request to move the case back to state court. But today, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Feikens and ruled the Warren lawsuit may proceed in state court. Detroit News_ 7/23/07

Washington state claim is single largest ever filed in bankruptcy court for environmental cleanup

In what has become a battle of dueling experts, Asarco says it would cost $12 million – rather than the roughly $400 million Washington state has claimed – to clean up the plume of arsenic, lead and other toxic substances emitted from its former Ruston smelter. Asarco, a century-old mining and smelting company, sought bankruptcy protection two years ago and now faces nearly $11 billion in environmental claims. A federal bankruptcy judge in Texas will begin sifting through the claims this summer. Lawyers say it is the largest ever environmental-related bankruptcy case. The state claims toxic emissions from the smelter, which closed in 1985, contaminated water, air and soil in Pierce, King and Thurston counties. Washington’s overall $600 million claim is the second-largest filed by any state, and the $400 million sought specifically for the Ruston plume cleanup is the largest single nonfederal environmental claim filed with the bankruptcy court, said Elliott Furst, a senior counsel in the ecology division of the Washington Attorney General’s Office. Asarco could face cleanup costs at 75 sites nationwide. Sixteen 16 states, two Indian tribes, a number of private parties and several federal agencies have submitted claims. At the heart of the case are Asarco’s allegations that its Mexican parent company, Grupo Mexico, S.A. de C.V., forced Asarco to sell its most lucrative asset – a majority share in two copper-rich mines in southern Peru – and then cast the company adrift into bankruptcy in a move to slough off its environmental and other liabilities. At least two firms, Harbinger Capital Partners and Glencore International AG, have expressed interest in investing in Asarco’s reorganization. Harbinger, a hedge fund that is also Asarco’s largest bondholder, is working with unions representing Asarco employees to perhaps buy the company, according to a UBS FX Strategy and Research report. Glencore, a privately held Swiss company, is one of the largest suppliers of raw materials to industrial customers in the world. Tacoma News Tribune_ 7/16/07

Flower Mound, Texas and the Upper Trinity Regional Water District feud...and feud....and feud

Officials from the town of Flower Mound and the Upper Trinity Regional Water District say they want to talk. But they won't. They can't agree what to talk about. Flower Mound wants to talk about auditing Upper Trinity's management. Upper Trinity wants to talk about the $6.4 million bill for construction delays it sent Flower Mound, its biggest customer. Some had thought a state court ruling in May, which forced Flower Mound to pay $487,000 for Upper Trinity's legal fees in the town's failed lawsuit against the water district, would begin to heal a deeply wounded relationship. But the ruling turned out to be just another notch on a timeline with no end in sight. If the two sides agree on anything, it's that the other won't budge. Flower Mound contends an audit would show that Upper Trinity – which is governed by representatives from 25 entities, mostly in Denton County and including Flower Mound – has overbuilt infrastructure, leading to high debt and high water rates. Upper Trinity blames higher rates, in part, on Flower Mound. The district claimed the lawsuit delayed construction, resulting in higher costs. So the district billed the town $6.4 million in 2005. The town hasn't paid. District officials said the figure is up for negotiation, and they haven't ruled out another lawsuit. Dallas Morning News_ 7/14/07

Acuity Specialty Products Groups pleads guilty to violating Clean Watter Act

Acuity Specialty Products, Inc., (Acuity) a company that has a manufacturing plant in Atlanta pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging it with a knowing violation of the Clean Water Act. Per the terms of the plea agreement, U.S. District Judge Marvin H. Shoob imposed a sentence of three years of probation and a fine of $3.8 million.  The allegations arise out of wastewater discharges from the Acuity facility, located in Atlanta. The facility operates as a chemical blending facility that manufactures numerous detergent and cleaning products which are used for industrial and domestic purposes. Within the facility are different plants, each of which produces a different type of detergent or cleaning product, including liquids, aerosols, powders and acids.  In its plea today, Acuity admitted that from at least September 1998 until November 2002, while inspectors from the City of Atlanta Watershed Department were at the Acuity facility conducting sampling, Acuity employees altered the wastewater flow in order to render the sampling inaccurate, with the intention of misleading the City of Atlanta. As a result of the investigation, Daniel Schaffer, Acuity's former Director of Environmental Compliance, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, in February 2006. He is awaiting sentencing.  earthtimes.org_6/29/07

Supreme Court rules for NAHB in clean water permit case

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of regulatory balance—and environmental stewardship—in a five to four decision regarding home builders’  consultation requirements under the Endangered Species Act.  In the case of National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, the court reversed and remanded a lower court decision that required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider the protection of “listed” species before handing Clean Water Act permitting authority over to the state of Arizona. The EPA had determined that the state met all the necessary criteria for receiving that authority.  In the case of one protected species in Arizona, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that Endangered Species Act consultations delayed the typical development by five to 18 months and, when added to the cost of onsite mitigation and project modifications, cost between $1.7 million and $2.7 million, according to the NAHB.  Press release NAHB_6/25/07

Eight environmental groups start ballast water lawsuit
Congress fails to act

The legal battle over ballast water from oceangoing ships escalated Thursday as eight environmental groups started a lawsuit against shippers under the national Clean Water Act.  Oceangoing ships are blamed for bringing more than a dozen invasive species into the Great Lakes in recent years, including a new fish-killing virus and zebra mussels.  An attorney for the National Wildlife Federation said that under the Clean Water Act, the ships must get a federal permit that requires them to sanitize their ballast water before releasing it into the Great Lakes, because the water has been shown to contain biological pollution in the form of invasive species. Citizens are allowed to file lawsuits to enforce that provision of the act, said Neil Kagan, the attorney. Since 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency has exempted ocean ships from the requirement. A federal court in California ruled in 2005 that the law does not allow such an exemption.  “We need to do what we can to protect ourselves from invasive species,” since Congress has failed to act to stop the flood of invasive creatures, said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the wildlife federation’s Great Lakes office. Legislation to require shippers to treat their ballast water has been pending for the past four years in Congress, but it has never come to a vote on the floor of either the House or Senate, he said.  Detroit Free Press_6/21/07

Judge rules mine sediment ponds violate Clean Water Act
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that using settling ponds to remove sediment from streams at mountaintop removal coal mines violates the Clean Water Act.  The ruling by U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers jeopardizes an industrywide practice that's been used for decades. Chambers also ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn't have the authority to allow mines to discharge sediment into settling ponds.  The corps has long allowed mountaintop removal mines to build settling ponds just below valleys that have been filled with rock and dirt removed to expose shallow coal seams. The corps has maintained that those stretches are wastewater treatment ponds and not waters of the United States.  The decision came in a lawsuit brought by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and two other groups. In an earlier ruling in the case, Chambers held that the corps violated federal law by issuing valley fill permits for four mountaintop removal mines without adequately determining whether the environment would be harmed.   Daily _6/13/07

Water at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune under scrutiny for illnesses of Marines and families in past decades

Thousands of Marines and their families went to serve their country at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune. Instead, many wound up fighting it, blaming the government for failing to protect them from an enemy that invaded their lives in a most intimate way: through the water that quenched their thirst, cooked their food and filled their bathtubs every day. The water that poured from kitchen faucets and bathroom showers at Camp Lejeune was an environmental tragedy realized a generation ago that is drawing new scrutiny from members of Congress outraged over the government's treatment of sick veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere. U.S. health officials in Atlanta hope to finish a long-awaited study by year's end to examine whether the water tainted with solvents affected the health of children. It will influence the Pentagon's response to at least 850 pending legal claims by people who lived at the Marine base, officials said. The former residents, who together seek nearly $4 billion, believe their families were afflicted by water containing industrial solvents before the Marines shut off the bad wells in the mid-1980s. AP/Fresno Bee_ 6/12/07

Court Approves AMTROL’s Plan of Reorganization

AMTROL is a leading manufacturer and marketer of water storage and pressure control products, water heaters and cylinders. Pursuant to the plan, the holders of more than 98% of its Senior Subordinated Notes, led by Newport Global Advisors, voted in favor of the plan and will convert their notes into equity in the reorganized company as part of the restructuring, thereby reducing the company’s debt by approximately 45% and greatly improving its long-term financial stability. The plan received 100% approval by the holders of the notes with less than 2% of the holders of the notes electing to receive cash in exchange for their notes. Since the filing in December 2006, AMTROL has continued to operate in the normal course of business and has experienced no disruptions during the Chapter 11 reorganization process. All of the Company’s manufacturing and distribution facilities have remained open and have continued to serve customers in the normal course. The Company’s foreign operations have not been involved in the bankruptcy cases. More information about AMTROL’s reorganization is available at or KCC at 888 251 2873. AMTROL recorded worldwide revenues of $213.1 million in 2006. News Release_ 5/24/07

San Diego County Water Authority and Imperial Irrigation District reach $50 million settlement

The settlement is intended to ease harm to farm suppliers, farm workers and others during efforts to protect the Salton Sea. The settlement is part of a larger, 2003 agreement in which water conservation measures in California's Imperial Valley are used to provide water to San Diego County. Overall, the 2003 agreement reduces California's use of Colorado River water. News Release_ 5/8/07

Montana community approves water treatment plan but citizens object

After more than a decade, Boulder is on the verge of complying with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and treating its water. The city council approved an engineering plan in March that should reduce copper levels in the water to comply with the SDWA. However, many citizens recently signed a petition opposing the treatment, and some say it could present more of a health risk than leaving the water as is. The petition gained 200 signatures in the first three days it was circulated said petition organizer David Kirsch, a former mayor of Boulder. However, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which enforces federal water quality standards in the state, wants the water treated and took the city to court in February to force compliance with the SDWA. DEQ filed a lawsuit against Boulder last fall, and Boulder could face fines of $10,000 per day, dating back to 1993. City officials thought that replacing the city’s old water mains in 2000 would lower the copper levels to acceptable standards. It didn’t. Helena Independent Record_ 5/1/07

Judge orders California to stop killing fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or shut down pumps that send water to Southern California

The pumps that send water to 24 million Californians illegally kill endangered and threatened fish species and must be shut down, an Alameda County judge has decided. The judge's draft decision, released Friday, is far-reaching in scope, but nobody expects immediate rationing in the areas that receive the water -- the East Bay, the South Bay and Southern California. Judge Frank Roesch gave the state 60 days to figure out a way to comply with the law. Ultimately, the state Department of Water Resources could be forced to radically change the way it allocates water via a complicated set of canals and reservoirs known as the State Water Project. Changes could mean more water for the beleaguered Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and less for municipalities and Central Valley farms. The decision further undercuts the faltering consensus approach that has guided state water politics during the past decade, and it harks back to the 1970s and 1980s, when acrimony and litigation prevailed. Consequences of changing State Water Project operations are huge: The system is a major source of water for cities like Los Angeles and irrigates 775,000 acres of cropland. State officials say it is also directly responsible for a $300 billion portion of the California economy. San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/24/07

U.S., Canadian shipping groups sue Michigan over state's new ballast-water law
A coalition of shipping companies and industry groups from the United States, Canada and Barbados representing ocean freighters that transport cargo on the Great Lakes has sued Michigan, claiming its new ballast-water law is unconstitutional.  The law, which took effect Jan. 1, is among the first of its type in the country and aims at stopping the further introduction of invasive species into the lakes through the discharge of ocean water used as ballast.  A freighter takes in thousands of litres of ballast water to stabilize it when travelling with little or no cargo.  Four shipping companies, four shipping associations and one dock company filed a complaint March 15 in U.S. District Court in Detroit. It asks a judge to declare the Michigan Ballast Water Act unconstitutional. The law requires all oceangoing ships visiting Michigan ports to obtain a state permit by either promising not to discharge ballast water or proving they are equipped to sanitize ballast tanks with one of four state-approved technologies.  Ocean freighters account for five per cent of the cargo moved on the Great Lakes, according to government data. But scientific studies have found that the vessels have imported most of the exotic species found in the lakes during the past 50 years, including zebra and quagga mussels, goby, ruffe and the spiny water flea.  The shippers say the law casts too wide a net because only a fraction of the freighters that visit Michigan ports each year discharge their ballast water.   Canada.com_3/22/07

Court rules dumping does not violate Clean Water Act
Agribusiness company Cargill Inc.'s decades-long practice of dumping salt-making waste on land next to the San Francisco Bay does not violate the Clean Water Act, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.  The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a 2003 lower court decision that found that Cargill, by dumping waste into the holding pond without a permit, violated the act because the pond was next to the Bay.  The 17-acre parcel in the middle of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont has been used for decades as a dumping ground by Cargill and its predecessor, Leslie Salt.  It is also a seasonal wetland, with low-lying areas filling with water in the winter and spring, then drying in summer and fall.  The appeals court, in overruling the lower court, said Clean Water Act protections do not extend from waterways such as the Bay to enclosed "ponds" like Cargill's.  "The so-called pond doesn't discharge into the Bay," said Cargill's lawyer John Barg. "It has no impact on the Bay."  The environmental group San Francisco Baykeeper sued Cargill in 1996 to force a stop to the dumping. Attorney Daniel Purcell said the group had not decided whether to appeal further.  Contra Costa Times_3/9/07

United Water Resources told to settle with New Jersey environmentalists for allowing developers and homeowners to use land meant to protect reservoirs

Bergen County's largest water supplier likely broke the law by allowing developers and private homeowners to use land meant to protect its reservoirs, two top state officials said on Thursday. A state panel held off, however, on fining United Water Resources or forcing the company to revoke its land deals. Instead, it told the utility to settle with environmentalists who say those deals put the water supply in jeopardy. The state's environmental protection commissioner, Lisa Jackson, said the state's investigation "has convinced us that violations did happen." At issue are 114 leases, easements and agreements that the Harrington Park-based water company granted to third parties around the county in the past 19 years. Some allowed benign uses, such as Boy Scout hikes or bird-counting studies. But dozens of others allowed homeowners to essentially extend their properties into watershed areas, and some allowed businesses to build cellphone towers, parking lots or drainage basins on the land. New Jersey's Watershed Protection and Moratorium Act requires state approval before utilities can let their land be used for anything other than water protection, activists said. United Water's attorneys defended the company during sometimes testy exchanges with environmentalists, but also said the company was open to a settlement. Afterward, a spokesman said the utility "strongly disagreed" with the idea that it broke any rules. NorthJersey.com_ 2/9/07

January, 2007

Massachusetts textile company fined $480,000 for clean air and clean water violations

Duro Textiles LLC, a Massachusetts textile company, has agreed to pay a $480,000 fine to settle a federal case for Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act violations at its several manufacturing plants in Fall River, Mass.  The case, brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, was settled today by the filing of a complaint and lodging of a consent decree in the U.S. district court in Boston. Duro has also made operating changes to come into compliance with federal law.  The complaint alleges that three of Duro’s plants repeatedly and over a long period of time violated the legal limits on low and high pH wastewater discharged into the Fall River sewer system and treatment works. The resulting acidic and alkaline wastewater is corrosive and can damage sewer piping and water treatment plant equipment. In addition, Duro failed to routinely inspect potential sources of stormwater contamination (such as outdoor fuel tanks and chemical unloading areas), which left Duro unable to address any emerging water pollution problems.  In addition to making operational changes at its plants to prevent pollution, Duro has agreed to stipulated penalties should any future pH violations of its wastewater effluents occur.   Press Release_1/25/07

Wilhoit Water Co. appeals Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's arsenic compliance order

The owner of the private water company that was delivering unsafe, arsenic-laden drinking water to its customers in Chino Valley has filed an appeal with the Arizona Attorney General's office over the order requiring him to provide a clean product. Under the order, Robert Conlin, owner of Wilhoit Water Co.-Yavapai Estates, is to deliver bottled water to all of his customers affected by the arsenic scare, treat the wells' water, and offer a plan for compliance. ADEQ director Steve Owens said the company has requested a settlement meeting with high-ranking department officials and Conlin's lawyer to talk about bringing the matter to an end with full compliance. "That's a positive sign," Owens said. Daily Courier_ 1/13/07

Federal judge throws out Peterborough, New Hampshire water company suit

The $5 million lawsuit brought by a spring water company accused the town of unfairly rejecting its expansion plans. Monadnock View Holdings, which owns Highland Springs Water, sued last year alleging that town officials were biased against the company because they had connections to another spring water company, Barking Dog Water. The town has repeatedly denied Monadnock View's expansion plan, which called for drawing water from springs in a residential area and turning a historic town barn into a restaurant and inn. In dismissing the suit this week, Judge Paul Barbadoro said Monadnock View failed to show that its competitor received any advantages. Neighbors fought Monadnock View's proposal to draw water from 300 acres of residential-zoned land. They worried about truck traffic and the potential of water shortages caused by the commercial operation. New Hampshire Union Leader/Boston Globe_ 12/22/06

Arguments over water rights begin in Idaho high court

If Idaho is allowed to distribute water according to who needs it most, property rights in the state become meaningless, lawyers for senior water rights holders told the state Supreme Court on Friday. The court heard arguments on a nearly 2-year-old case in a packed courtroom. In an agricultural state where important farmland would turn to desert without irrigation, the fight over who will get what’s left in the depleted Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer has grown fierce. Attorneys for the state argued that Idaho’s Department of Water Resources director has the discretion to distribute water based on where it is needed most. But 5th District Judge Barry Wood disagreed with them in a June ruling. In a water shortage, users with senior rights must get all their water before those with younger, or junior rights can get theirs, Wood said. A group of surface water users filed suit against the state in August 2005 following several years of drought, because Water Resources Director Karl Dreher refused to cut off junior users from water at the request of senior rights holders. Senior users usually tend to be irrigation districts and canal companies, while junior rights holders tend to be individual farmers or cities. Junior users have argued that if they are prohibited from pumping underground water from the Lake Erie-sized aquifer, eastern and southern Idaho’s farmland will dry up and the cities will run out of drinking water. The justices did not indicate when they might rule. AP/Ag Weekly_ 12/18/06

Texas water scam alert issued
Residents of west Bryan are being warned about a scam duping people into buying unnecessary water system equipment, police said Thursday. One victim told police she was approached by men who identified themselves as employees of a government agency, possibly the Environmental Protection Agency. The men took samples of tap water from inside her home, then they informed her that her water was of poor quality, containing hazardous chemicals such as arsenic, lead and chlorine, according Bryan police. The men told the woman that the government would subsidize the cost of a new home water filtration system, and they offered to install the $9,000 system at a discounted price of $6,000, police said. The Eagle_ 12/15/06

London-based company added to U.S. federal criminal case against alleged Utah water polluter

Prosecutors this week accused a London-based company of being a co-conspirator in a scheme to cover up pollution releases into the Jordan River and the Great Salt Lake.
The U.S. Justice Department added the name of Johnson Matthey P.L.C., a multi-national specialty chemicals company, to its case against a West Valley City silver and metal refiner, Johnson Matthey Inc., which was charged last spring in a 29-count indictment. The company was charged with environmental crimes for allegedly tampering with pollution tests and reports that resulted in too much selenium flowing into Utah waters. Calls to the company's U.S. affiliates and their lawyers were not returned. The charges include conspiracy, concealment by trick, scheme and device, and violations of the Clean Water Act. If convicted, the U.S. arm would face a maximum penalty of $12.5 million, and the parent company would face a fine of $500,000. David McKelvie, the West Valley City plant's former general manager, faces fines of $4.5 million and 90 years in prison, while plant manager Paul Greaves faces up to 125 years in prison and $6.3 million in fines. Salt Lake Tribune_ 12/15/06

California water district files suit over purification system

The Rainbow Municipal Water District has filed a lawsuit over a water purification system it purchased in 2004, alleging fraud against the New Mexico manufacturer and Dudek & Associates Inc., the environmental firm that provides the district's general managing services, court documents show.  The primary defendant in the suit, filed Thursday in Vista Superior Court, is Miox Corp., the manufacturer of the purification system. The suit also names Engineered Systems and Construction Inc., which acted as a sales representative of Miox.  Ken Klein, an attorney representing the water district, said Friday that the suit stems from dissatisfaction over the performance of an approximately $1 million water purification system that was allegedly touted by Miox as low maintenance, safer and able to provide better-tasting water.  The suit alleges the "mixed oxidant" disinfection system has not provided the benefits that the company claimed and that it has been unable to reliably deliver and maintain necessary chlorine levels to meet drinking water standards set by the California Department of Health Services.  NC Times_12/2/06

Ex-city water boss ill; sentencing postponed

Sentencing in the corruption case against the former No. 2 official in the city's Department of Water Management was delayed Wednesday because he was ill, attorneys in the case said.  Donald Tomczak, 70, had been expected to be sentenced for his role in the scandal in the city's Hired Truck Program. One of his lawyers said the illness was not believed to be serious, and the sentencing was rescheduled to Nov. 9 before U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan.  Tomczak has been a cooperating witness in an ongoing investigation into corruption at City Hall. He pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $400,000 in campaign contributions and gifts in exchange for steering city business to favored trucking firms.  The Chicago Tribune_11/2/06

AWWA issues fraud alert

AWWA members and others should be aware of a purported sweepstakes award for the association, AWWA said in a warning posted on its web site. The warnng said "in the past week, a number of persons have received what appears to be a check, mostly for $4,900 and some greater, drawn on AWWA's Account. The check is invalid and was not issued by AWWA. A letter accompanying the fake check invites the recipient to call a number to receive further information. If you receive this letter, please immediately alert local authorities and AWWA (1-800-926-7337). Do not call the number on the letter." AWWA_ 10/16/06

Court voids agreements on Gunnison River water in Black Canyon

Agreements between the federal government and Colorado that environmentalists said could have harmed fish and other wildlife dependent on the water flowing though the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park have been thrown out by a federal judge.  Environmentalists argued in a lawsuit that the Gunnison River flowing through the spectacular gorges of the 14-mile long park needed both a minimum and a peak flow in order to maintain its ecosystem.  Agreements reached by the Interior Department and the state in 2003 established a minimum flow for the river through the park, but said peak flows above that could be diverted to other uses, such as to farming.  State and federal officials said they would protect the park and preserve the river for other uses. However, the agreement meant the government surrendered its senior water right, established in 1933 when the canyon was deemed a national monument, and allowed the river to be diverted by farmers, ranchers, cities and utilities.  In his 32-page ruling released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer wrote that giving up the canyon’s older water rights was “nonsensical” and disagreed with the government’s argument.  Summit Daily News_9/14/06

Accord reached on diverting water from farms to restore San Joaquin River

For most of the last 60 years, much of the San Joaquin River has not really been a river. Dammed and drained for agricultural purposes in the arid Central Valley, the San Joaquin is dry for mile after mile, a symbol of the cost of progress and the miracles of modern irrigation.  On Wednesday, a coalition of environmental and fishing groups announced the settlement of an 18-year-old suit against the Interior Department and a group of California water users, ending one of the longest-running environmental skirmishes.  The proposal, which Congress will vote on, would create a multimillion-dollar project to restore more than 150 miles of the San Joaquin to the lush riverbed it once was.  “This is one of the most important and historic restoration efforts in the West,” said Hal Candee, a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the suit in the Reagan administration. “This is really bringing a dead river back to life.”  Under the plan, announced in Sacramento, billions of gallons of water would eventually be released from Friant Dam, just north of Fresno, spilling into the historic river channels. The new flow, environmentalists and fishermen hope, will create a healthy environment for Chinook salmon, which once spawned — and thrived — in the San Joaquin.  In exchange for losing 15 percent to 20 percent of their yearly water, depending on rainfall, farmers and other long-term water users would be assured of a supply.  NY Times_9/14/06 Logon Required

Water Monitor Falsified Reports

A former New York City worker responsible for monitoring the water supply pleaded guilty yesterday to falsifying important records about the purity of the drinking water.  The worker, Daniel Storms, 32, admitted in Federal District Court in White Plains that in February 2005 he failed to complete all the required checks before recording the level of turbidity, a measure of cloudiness in the water. He was on duty at the time at the Catskill Lower Effluent Chamber, a point in Westchester County through which much of the city’s upstate water supply must pass.  Mr. Storms is the second city employee in recent years to plead guilty to making false entries in water quality records. In August 2005, Dieter Greenfeld, 63, admitted in federal court that he made false logbook entries that year while monitoring for turbidity. He was eventually sentenced to two years’ probation.  Mr. Storms faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  NY Times_9/14/06 Logon Required


Colorado Supreme Court rejects plan to pipe Western Slope water to Denver

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by supporters of a plan to pipe billions of gallons of Western Slope water to the thirsty Front Range, apparently killing the project. Natural Energy Resources Co. wanted to build a reservoir near Crested Butte to store up to 1.2 million acre-feet from the headwaters of the Gunnison River to be piped to fast-growing Arapahoe County on Denver’s east side. But in a 6-0 ruling with one justice abstaining, the Supreme Court upheld an August 2005 decision by Montrose-based Water Judge Steven Patrick, who canceled the company’s 20-year-old conditional water right after determining there wasn’t enough water available in the system for the company to carry out its plans. AP/Vail Daily_ 9/11/06

August, 2006

North Carolina Court of Appeals affirms closed water meetings

Mediation between the Buncombe County commissioners and the Asheville City Council about a water management agreement was not subject to the state's Open Meetings Law because only one representative of each panel participated, the Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. The parent companies of the Asheville Citizen-Times and WLOS-TV sued Buncombe County and the City of Asheville after the board of commissioners and city council closed their meetings at an Asheville hotel on April 26, 2005. A three-judge panel unanimously sided with a Superior Court judge who found the mediation process was not an official meeting and that closing the regular board meetings was proper. Official meetings of a public body require a majority of its members to participate, according to state law. AP/Herald-Sun_ 8/1/06

July, 2006

Company says Utah's Summit County illegally diverts water from Weber River
The state Division of Water Rights is reviewing allegations that Summit County's public Mountain Regional Water District is illegally diverting surface water from the Weber River near Peoa to supply the thirsty Snyderville Basin. The probe follows a complaint to the Division of Water Rights by the privately held Summit Water Distribution Co. Summit Water Distribution Co. has sued Summit County on numerous other occasions. Officials from the private water company could not be reached for comment Friday. But Dave Thomas, chief deputy in the Summit County Attorney's Office, said Mountain Regional did not violate permits issued by the Division of Water Rights. At issue is whether Summit County's permits for shallow wells near the Weber River channel allow it also to pull water from the river itself. Salt Lake Tribune_ 7/15/06

Texas lawsuit includes a mix of race and water

Frank and Earnestene Roberson no longer need to drive the 23 miles to a Wal-Mart near Shreveport, Louisiana, for a safe drink of water. Instead, it is delivered to them in five-gallon jugs, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency. But they and neighbors in the historically black enclave of DeBerry in the East Texas oilfields seem no closer to being able to drink, cook or bathe safely from their own wells since the E.P.A. found the groundwater contaminated with pollutants that included arsenic, benzene, lead and mercury. Calling themselves victims of "environmental racism," community members in June filed suit in federal court, accusing the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state's oil and gas industry, of failing to enforce safety regulations and of "intentionally giving citizens false information based on their race and economic status." New York Times_ 7/9/06 (logon required)

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sues North Carolina-based HydroFlo, Inc. and its former CEO, Dennis Mast, for issuing false press releases

On July 5, the Commission charged HydroFlo, Inc. (HydroFlo) and its
former CEO, Dennis Mast (Mast), with defrauding investors by making
false and materially misleading statements about Hydroflo's water
treatment business, contracts, and prospects in a series of press
releases in 2005. Without admitting or denying the Commission's
allegations, HydroFlo and Mast have consented to entry of injunctions
against further violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal
securities laws. Mast, of Apex, North Carolina, has also consented to
entry of an order requiring him to pay a $100,000 civil penalty,
barring him from serving as an officer or director of a public
company, and barring him from participating in offerings of penny
stock. The Commission's complaint was filed in the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division. Press Release_ 7/6/06

June, 2006

New Jersey water execs indicted on charges of hiding radium

Two former top managers at a United Water subsidiary in Toms River were indicted by a state grand jury on Thursday on charges that they manipulated tests to hide high levels of radium in the drinking water of a community where environmental officials have linked contaminated water to childhood cancer. George Flegal, 56, the former general manager for United Water Toms River, and Richard Ottens Jr., 52, the former operations manager, were accused of shutting down one of the wells that supplied the company's water during a test for radioactive materials. The Sept. 12, 2005 test showed the water system was within the legal limit for radium. But, in fact, the amount of radium exceeded allowable amounts, officials say. Prolonged exposure to the element has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. United Water Toms River, a subsidiary of Harrington Park-based United Water, serves 122,000 people in a portion of Ocean County. In 2001, United Water Toms River and two chemical companies agreed to pay 69 families with children stricken by cancer a reported $13 million to settle a lawsuit. None of the companies admitted to being at fault, however. AP/New 6/16/06

May, 2006

LA city workers arrested for alleged immigration violations
Eight workers at the city's Department of Water and Power have been arrested because they were unauthorized to work in the United States, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.  The agency arrested five people Tuesday and had previously arrested three others as part of a yearlong review of the utility's employment records by the agency and the utility itself. The workers held both blue collar and management jobs, according to an ICE statement. All had been with the company for at least three years and one made more than $100,000 a year. The joint investigation was part of a larger effort by ICE to root out unauthorized workers with access to critical infrastructure like nuclear plants and water supplies, though the agency emphasized that none of the arrested had known terrorist ties. All of the arrested workers - nationals of Ethiopia, Nigeria, El Salvador and Mexico whose names were not released - had come to the United States legally. Some, however, had visas that did not authorize them to work and two were legal residents with criminal convictions that made them eligible for deportation, the statement said.  The Mercury News_5/17/06 Logon required

U.S. Supreme Court upholds regulatory powers of states on quality of their river water

By a 9-0 vote, the high court upheld a ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that allowed the state to set additional conditions on a hydropower dam owner in exchange for renewing his license to operate five dams on the Presumpscot River. A ruling against Maine would have eliminated a key regulatory tool used by nearly every state to improve the quality of waterways. The state said the operation of the dams had caused long stretches of the natural river bed to be essentially dry. Maine and its supporters said that the federal Clean Water Act gives states the authority over discharges into their waters, including that release water to generate power. S.D. Warren Co., a division of Sappi Fine Paper, contended that it shouldn't have to get state permits just because water flows through its dams. The company said the water going through the dams did not constitute discharges because the water going in and out of the dams is the same water. Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said the case was being watched by dam owners, regulatory agencies and environmental groups nationwide. There are more than 1,000 licensed hydroelectric projects with more than 1,500 dams in 45 states, he said. There are more than 100 licensed dams in Maine. AP/Boston Globe_ 5/15/06

Exxon Mobil Corp. to face more lawsuite over MTBE in Maryland groundwater

Exxon Mobil Corp. is facing more lawsuits over the 25,000-gallon gasoline leak this year from one of its service stations that fouled ground water in the Jacksonville area of Baltimore County. With at least two suits over the leak already lodged against the oil company, an additional 50 claims from Jacksonville-area families seeking a collective $1 billion in punitive damages are to be filed today, said Stephen L. Snyder, their attorney. The lawsuits accuse Exxon Mobil of negligence for allowing the gas to leak from an underground fuel line at the station. The suits also accuse the company and the station operator, Storto Enterprises Inc., of knowingly failing to report the leak for 37 days and of exaggerating the success of cleanup effort. Six residential and commercial wells have been contaminated enough by gasoline or its components to exceed state drinking-water guidelines, but officials say 62 residential wells show traces of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, a gasoline additive. Baltimore Sun_ 5/11/06

U.S. Supreme Court lets stand $500,000 fine against Salinas, California's Alisal Water Co.; Largest penalty for federal Safe Drinking Water Act violations

The fine, ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in 2004, was the result of a 1997 lawsuit against Alisal Water, or Alco, by local, state and federal regulators responding to years of complaints by the company's 28,000 Monterey County customers. Fogel found not only that Alco violated water quality standards, but that it also falsified drinking water reports to local and state regulators, understating bacteria levels. Fogel said the historic fine was particularly high because ``of the nature of violations at issue'' and because of Alco officials' ``refusal to cooperate with regulators over a span of years.'' Alco and its owners, Robert and Patricia Adcock, appealed the fine. Tom Adcock, vice president of Alco, was unaware of the decision Monday afternoon but said ``I would have wished that (the justices) would have accepted our appeal, but they did not. That money (fine) was paid two years ago. It's long since been paid and gone.'' In finding Alco guilty, Fogel also ordered the seizure and sale of eight of Alco's systems. Most of those systems have been divvied up among operators of nearby water districts. AP/Knight Ridder/San Jose Mercury News_ 5/3/06

April, 2006

Legality of Nevada developer's water plan questioned

A state Division of Water Resources hearing officer has questioned the legality of a rural Nevada county's plan to sell water rights to Reno businessman Harvey Whittemore for a huge development he wants to build about 50 miles north of Las Vegas.  Susan Joseph-Taylor raised concerns during a hearing Wednesday that the sale of the rights by the Lincoln County Water District would conflict with state law and that water applicants must themselves use the water.  The Lincoln County Water District and Vidler Water Co. have applied for 5,000 acre-feet of water rights in Kane Springs Valley, a few miles from Coyote Springs where Whittemore has proposed building up to 82,000 homes and 16 golf courses.  Whittemore argued that Lincoln County has no chance of surviving economically unless the state engineer approves the water allocation for the Coyote Springs development.  Las Vegas Sun_4/6/06

Michigan inmates sue over contaminants in water

Filed by 18 inmates at St. Louis and Mid Michigan Correctional Facilities along with one Carson City inmate and seven John Does, the suit also alleges that the inmates are forced to drink contaminated water. Last fall, it was announced that p-CBSA, a by-product of DDT, was found in the St. Louis drinking water. At the recommendation of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, city officials were urged to find a new source for its drinking water. In the court document, the suit alleges that St. Louis schools "have gone to bottled water,“ and that while prison staff were notified of the water contamination, they refused to do anything about it. The inmates are asking for bottled water. The St. Louis School district did serve bottled water for a period of time, but no longer does. According to both the MDEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency, the water is safe to drink. The contaminated wells were shut down and further tests revealed no pCBSA in the drinking water. Morning Sun_ 3/31/06

Officials: Water not contaminated after teens break into supply
The drinking water supply is not contaminated, officials said Wednesday, assuring residents of Blackstone Massachusetts that three teenagers charged with breaking into this central Massachusetts town’s water storage facility intended to commit a prank, not terrorism.   Fear of contamination after the Monday break-in had prompted a water ban, as the 9,000 residents of Blackstone and about four dozen homes in neighboring North Smithfield, R.I., were told not to even let the water touch their skin. Schools canceled classes and many businesses closed Wednesday pending results of tests, which showed no contamination.   Boston Herald_3/29/06

Kentucky attorney general warns of legal action if water sullied by Virginia mining company

Attorney General Greg Stumbo yesterday threatened legal action to stop a Virginia mining company from polluting drinking water supplies in Eastern Kentucky. Stumbo called on Virginia officials to require Consol Energy to take precautions to protect the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, from which the city of Pikeville and other communities along the river -- including Prestonsburg -- get their drinking water. Consol Energy has applied for a permit from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to discharge water from the company's Buchanan No. 1 mine into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River. If issued, the permit would result in more than a billion gallons of mine water being released into Kentucky's waterways, about 40 miles upstream from Pikeville. An official at the coal company's headquarters in Pittsburgh has said the mine water would be high in chloride but would not harm fish or the water supply. The saltiness of the water piped from the mine would be diluted quickly, spokesman Thomas Hoffman said. Lexington Herald-Leader_ 3/28/06

February, 2006

Challenge to Clean Water Act endangers nation's streams
Consider what would happen if two legal challenges to the Clean Water Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court heard Tuesday, were to succeed.  Polluters are currently not allowed to dump toxic substances into a major river -- and that wouldn't change. So far, so good. But it would become perfectly legal to dump the same poisons into a stream that flows into that same river. Or as Justice David Souter aptly said: ``All you've got to do is dump the pollutant far enough up the water system to get away scot free.''  To think that's what Congress intended is absurd.  Under that topsy-turvy interpretation of the landmark 1972 law, more than half of all streams in the United States, as well as one-fifth of all wetlands, would no longer be protected, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. And waterways that provide drinking water for more than one in three Americans would be at risk.   San Jose Mercury_2/23/06

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Arkansas water pollution suit against Oklahoma

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday squelched Arkansas' attempt to sue Oklahoma in a dispute over chicken litter and water pollution, turning away the request without comment. Oklahoma filed a federal lawsuit last year alleging that Arkansas poultry companies were legally responsible for pollution of the Illinois River. After that Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe petitioned the high court for permission to sue its neighbor state under the Arkansas River Basin Compact. In its filings, Oklahoma has said Arkansas' proposed lawsuit "is nothing more than an attempt by Arkansas to use its status as a state to shield private companies from being held liable for their intentional pollution of Oklahoma's natural resources. AP/KOCO-5_ 2/21/06

Federal court judge's ruling could let billions of gallons of water head to San Diego County via All-American Canal-lining project

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro dismissed seven of eight claims in a lawsuit challenging a long-discussed Imperial Valley canal-lining project, expected to be completed by 2008. The seven claims revolved around the argument that the water belonged to the people of Mexico. The eighth claim, which has yet to be heard by the court, challenges the project on the grounds that its environmental studies were inadequate. The court ruling was the latest development in the long-discussed project to build a 23-mile, concrete-lined stretch of the 82-mile All-American Canal in Imperial Valley ---- a project that San Diego County water leaders are counting on to help sustain thousands of households for 110 years. Attorneys for the unusual coalition of Mexican business leaders and California environmental groups that sued to stop the project in July 2005 could not be reached Friday for comment. But a news release issued after Wednesday's ruling by the Mexican group ---- the Mexicali Economic Development Council ---- said it considered the dismissal a "minor setback" and that it could appeal the ruling. "This is the first battle in a long war," council Executive Director Rene Acuna said in the release. "It is very disappointing that the judge believes the U.S. can steal our water without due process simply because we are Mexicans." North County Times_ 2/11/06

PG&E to pay $295 million and apologize to more than 1,000 Californians for groundwater pollution

Pacific Gas and Electric on Friday agreed to pay $295 million to settle claims by more than 1,000 residents in several Mojave Desert towns who said they were harmed by groundwater contamination, a case made famous by the film "Erin Brockovich." As part of the settlement, the utility apologized to affected residents in the towns where leaks from gas compressor plants in the 1950s through the 1970s polluted the groundwater basin with chromium. The apology marked a bittersweet victory in Hinkley, Calif., where residents have blamed cancer deaths and birth defects on the polluted water. The settlement comes before the trial was supposed to begin and ends the majority of the claims from Hinkley and other towns, including Kettleman Hills, that said their groundwater was contaminated. Los Angeles Times_ 2/4/06 (logon required)

January, 2006

California water agencies win court's favor in logging debate

In a setback for loggers, the California Supreme Court on Monday upheld the authority of state water regulators to require timber companies to monitor water quality in streams and rivers where they cut trees. The ruling means that logging companies have to demonstrate that erosion from their logging will not clog waterways with mud and other debris, a practice that can kill salmon and increase the risk of flooding downstream. It impacts thousands of miles of waterways throughout California, from Humboldt County near the Oregon border to the Central Coast -- including forests throughout Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Knight Ridder/Contra Costa Times_ 1/31/06

Kentucky American Water asks court to stop Lexington condemnation case

There has been a lull since last fall, when the Kentucky Supreme Court blocked a vote on whether the city should restart efforts to acquire Kentucky American Water through eminent domain. The court said a vote couldn't be held in November 2005 because it wasn't an election year. Left hanging was the question of whether such citizen-initiated referendums are allowed any time in Kentucky. The Kentucky Court of Appeals could take up that issue in late March. In June, condemnation supporters presented the council with more than 23,000 signatures on a petition that directed the city to buy the water company or put the matter to a vote. Lexington Herald-Leader_ 1/21/06

ConAgra fined for violation of Clean Water Act
A federal judge fined ConAgra Foods Inc. $138,513 and ordered the company to provide $110,000 in community service for violating the Clean Water Act at its facility in Hastings, the Department of Justice said. ConAgra was ordered to provide $55,000 in community service each to the National Park Foundation and the Friends of the Mississippi River, the Justice Department said Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson also ordered ConAgra to pay $1,487 in restitution to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. ConAgra pleaded guilty last Sept. 1 for failing to record and report temperatures of non-contact water discharged from the food ingredient and flour mill it owns and operates in Hastings. The reporting was required under ConAgra's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. ConAgra allowed water used to cool air compressors to flow out of the Hastings facility, over bedrock and into the Vermillion River, a tributary of the Mississippi River, the government alleged. The discharged water allegedly was warmer than the 86 degrees allowed under the permit. Grand Forks Herald_1/18/06

States, enviros, side with feds on Supreme Court clean water cases

The attorneys general of 34 states plus the District of Columbia filed documents with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday in support of the Clean Water Act in three cases set to be heard next month. They expressed support for the Clean Water Act’s core safeguard - the requirement to obtain a permit before discharging pollutants into waters of the United States. The number of states increased by one this week as Governor Edward Rendell Wednesday directed that Pennsylvania join the states in filing an amicus brief, or friend of the court brief, in the Clean Water Act cases. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear these cases on February 21. The issues at stake are whether the Clean Water Act protects wetlands adjacent to tributaries that flow into larger water bodies and adjacent wetlands, and, if so, whether the Constitution gives Congress the authority to protect them. The first case, S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection, could decide the scope of state government authority to mitigate the water quality impacts of hydroelectric dams and other federally licensed activities within their borders. ENS_1/19/06

Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick out as water chief
A federal judge Thursday stripped Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of his special administrator role over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, but rejected a suburban request for a formal role in the governance of the nation's third largest water department.  U.S. District Judge John Feikens also rejected some county leaders' criticism of Kilpatrick and praised the mayor's stewardship of the water department. Feikens said he hoped the city and suburbs could end more than a decade of bickering and he asked former Gov. William Milliken and James Nicholson, chief executive officer of PVS Chemicals, to help negotiate a
voluntary truce.  The legal moves are the latest fight in a battle between the city, which owns and operates the water system, and the suburbs, where three-quarters of the system's customers live. Many suburban critics contend Detroit mismanages the system while many Detroiters accuse the suburbs of trying to take over the system, which generated $575 million in operating revenue last year.  DetNews.com_1/6/06


  Home   All News Topics   Legal Issues Archives


Legal Issues
2011 All rights reserved. Acceptable Use Policy | Privacy Statement Policy