General Magnaplate faces potential federal lawsuit for illegal storm water discharges

The Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) and Keller Rohrback L.L.P. has notified Ventura global coating company General Magnaplate of EDC’s intent to sue the company for allegedly operating its electroplating facility in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

The notice letter alleges that the facility is illegally discharging storm water containing pollutants, including zinc and aluminum, into the Santa Clara River, less than two miles from where the River flows into the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Clara River, southern California’s last naturally free-flowing major river, is critical to the communities’ health and recreation, and is home to numerous endangered species.

EDC and Keller Rohrback’s investigation has revealed that, over the past five years, General Magnaplate has apparently continuously violated California’s General Industrial Storm Water Permit (“General Permit”) by discharging iron, zinc, aluminum, and other pollutants in concentrations that are magnitudes above lawful limits.

“General Magnaplate’s ongoing pollution in violation of the Clean Water Act threatens our communities, beach-goers, and the numerous species that rely on this important watershed,” stated Maggie Hall, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Defense Center. “By notifying General Magnaplate of our intent to sue, we hope to force them to clean up their operations and protect the Santa Clara River from polluted runoff.”

The General Permit is intended to protect our state’s waterways from pollution caused by storm water runoff from industrial facilities. Storm water is among the nation’s top sources of water contamination. Electroplating facilities like General Magnaplate are required to collect and analyze storm water samples for iron, zinc, aluminum, and other pollutants.

The Santa Clara River was listed in 2005 as the 10th most endangered U.S. waterway. It also provides crucial aquatic ecosystem functions in the region, including groundwater recharge and riparian habitat. The River is home to as many as 17 species listed as threatened or endangered, and includes critical habitat for many species, including the Santa Ana Sucker, Tidewater Goby, Unarmored Threespine Stickleback, California Red Legged Frog, Arroyo Toad, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Least Bell’s Vireo, and the Southern California Steelhead.

General Magnaplate has been in operation since 1980, and has global corporate headquarters in New Jersey.

Under the Clean Water Act, potential litigants must send a 60-day notice of intent to sue before lawsuits can be filed alleging that a facility is in violation of the Act. While EDC and Keller Rohrback are committed to pursuing legal remedies if necessary, their hope is that submission of the notice will prompt General Magnaplate to comply with its mandatory permit requirements, thereby protecting water quality, without court intervention.

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