The city of Santa Barbara settled a lawsuit with SB Channelkeeper last week, agreeing to spend $26 million to help renovate the region’s sewer systems over the next five years.
Channelkeeper, a local nonprofit watchdog organization for water quality, filed a lawsuit last year claiming the city breached the 1972 Clean Water Act’s requirements for regulating the release of pollutions into water sources. According to Channelkeeper, Santa Barbara averages 15 sewage spills for every 100 miles of sewage pipe — three times the average for California.
Channelkeeper’s Executive Director Kira Redmond said the group filed the complaint after local officials failed to address the organization’s concerns.
“The city of Santa Barbara had one of the highest rates of the sewage spills of any places of the Central Coast, so Channelkeeper was obviously concerned about the condition of the pipes that were letting the sewage out,” Redmond said. “After trying for many years, through advocacy and local efforts, the city of Santa Barbara wasn’t responding. It was not working, so we had to resort to a lawsuit to get the job done.”
However, Santa Barbara’s Water Resources Manager Rebecca Bjork said the city made significant improvements to the sewage system prior to the lawsuit.
“We had already drastically reduced the number of spills to a number that is lower than the number they were asking us to lower it to,” Bjork said. “We were really disappointed by their legal direction. I do not think there was anything that was achieved that could not have been achieved if they just discussed it with us. We proposed that, but they were intent on pursuing litigation.”