Monday, July 16 , 2018, 3:42 am | Fair 65º


Local News

City Settles Channelkeeper Lawsuit Over Sewage Spills

Agreement calls for Santa Barbara to spend an extra $5 million annually for five years on upgrades to its wastewater system

As part of a legal settlement with a nonprofit environmental group, the City of Santa Barbara will spend an extra $5 million on sewer-system pipe repairs over the next five years.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper filed a lawsuit last April alleging that the city was violating the Clean Water Act by failing to prevent spills from its wastewater system.

The city has had 171 spills since 2006, and its 2008-09 spill rate was three times the state average, according to Channelkeeper Executive Director Kira Redmond.

“This is a banner day for Santa Barbara’s creeks and beaches, and for the citizens and visitors who enjoy them and the wildlife that depend on them,” Redmond said of the settlement agreement.

Public Works Director Christine Andersen said the city has made many changes for the better, including a revamped cleaning system, since the 42 spills — amounting to 8,100 gallons — in 2009. There were 35 spills in 2010 and 12 in 2011, with 215 gallons spilled.

She said all of the spillage was captured or soaked into the ground, so none of the incidents affected the city’s water quality or caused beach closures.

“It was very disappointing to see Channelkeeper sue us, as we had already turned a corner and made dramatic improvements in collection-system performance,” Andersen said.

The settlement results are meant to keep the city focused on improving performance even more, and getting spills down to zero, which is a target for the city as well, she said.

The city’s wastewater treatment plant handles 8 million gallons daily, and the Public Works Department repairs about 1 percent of the system’s pipes per year. With the settlement, the city will pay an additional $1 million per year for five years to repair or replace an additional two miles of pipe annually. It’s unclear where that money will come from within the department’s budget for next year.

Sherry Madsen, president of Channelkeeper’s Board of Directors, said in a news release that the agreement is a win-win.

“Channelkeeper is pleased that we were able to work cooperatively with the city to forge an effective and proactive solution to Santa Barbara’s sewage pollution problem,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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