San Diego sues water quality board over polluted plume under Qualcomm

Suit claims river, ocean being polluted

SAN DIEGO - The city of San Diego has filed a lawsuit against the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), demanding it rescind a permit to discharge polluted groundwater into Murphy Canyon Creek, the San Diego River and Pacific Ocean.

Click here to view the city's lawsuit

“Its time to end this madness and clean this place up,” San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith said. "That’s the purpose of the lawsuit to ask the court to order them (the RWQCB) to do their job.”

The RWQCB allowed the corporation responsible for a mid-1980s fuel spill to clean it up.  The clean up process involves dumping 1.2 million gallons of contaminated water a day in the city sewer and drainage system.

Team 10 asked the Regional Water Quality Control Board's executive director why a water protection agency would allow a private company to dump 1.2 million gallons of contaminated water a day.

"The water is not contaminated once its treated and disposed of and the board is regulating that," director Dave Gibson said.

The city lawsuit disputes that statement.

Kinder Morgan is the private corporation responsible for cleaning up the spill, which contaminated the Qualcomm Stadium property, including the Mission Valley Aquifer.  Kinder Morgan owns the fuel tanks that have been identified as the source of the fuel leak.

The city lawsuit claims Kinder Morgan is using clean-up technology that depletes the aquifer by pumping groundwater out. The RWQCB authorized this clean-up method.

Kinder Morgan issued this statement to Team 10 regarding the lawsuit:

"Kinder Morgan believes that the City's lawsuit against the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Diego Division (RWQCB) is ill-advised and without merit. The issues raised in the City's lawsuit were extensively briefed and argued during an extended hearing before the RWQCB, after which the RWCQB properly rejected the City's claims based upon science, not politics.

Acting under the oversight of the RWQCB, Kinder Morgan has spent more than $60 million to clean historical contamination adjacent to its Mission Valley Terminal, which contamination predates the company's ownership of the facility. The RWQCB required Kinder Morgan to complete cleanup of the soil on the stadium property by December 31, 2010, and Kinder Morgan has done that. Kinder Morgan continues to make substantial progress on the remediation of groundwater underlying the stadium property and is on target to meet the Dec. 31, 2013 deadline for this clean-up as well.

For nearly a decade, Kinder Morgan has offered, and continues to offer, the treated water, which meets drinking water standards for the petroleum contaminants of concern, to the City instead of discharging such treated water to Murphy Canyon Creek as provided in its permit. The City has rejected all such offers.

The City previously sued Kinder Morgan, at a reported cost to the City in excess of $4 million, in Federal Court alleging that Kinder Morgan was not acting "fast enough" in cleaning up the historical contamination that it inherited - and the City lost. Now, inexplicably, the City is suing the RWQCB, seeking to derail Kinder Morgan's remaining cleanup on the eve of its completion."


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