The Columbia Slough Watershed is a place in which environmental citizen groups continue to find violations of the Clean Water Act (the “CWA”). The filing of two recent cases in the federal district court for the District of Oregon by the Columbia Riverkeeper exemplifies these efforts. See Columbia Riverkeeper v. American Recyclers LLC, No. 3:14 cv 985 (D. Or., complaint filed June 18, 2014); Columbia Riverkeeper v. PMI Properties LLC, No. 3:14 cv 1097 (D. Or.,complaint filed July 9, 2014). The complaints allege that the defendant facilities violated the CWA by failing to comply with various terms and conditions of a permit that allows them to discharge stormwater into the slough. The permit is known as the 1200-COLS National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit.
The filing of the complaint is a step that occurs after the citizen group has issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue for violations. A facility that receives such a notice of intent to sue by a citizen group could avoid a formal judicial complaint in a number of ways, including convincing the citizen group that the alleged violations did not occur or are wholly past violations, or reaching a settlement with the citizen group. Once the lawsuit is filed, parties may need to rely on the more expensive judicial process to reach a resolution.
In recent history, such citizen lawsuits were brought by the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. The addition of lawsuits by the Columbia Riverkeeper illustrates that the Columbia Slough Watershed continues to be a focus of various concerned citizens.