The Waterkeeper Alliance took joy in announcing that the Westchester County Supreme Court ruled Jan. 10 that New York state is failing to take legally required steps to clean up “one of the biggest sources of pollution in its waterways—stormwater runoff.”

The decision comes after a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Waterkeeper organizations in the region and other partners, challenging the statewide “general permit” for stormwater discharges from municipal sewers.  The court ordered the agency to fix several major flaws in the permit, to ensure all Clean Water Act requirements are met.

Waterkeepers Alliance is a major source of lawsuits being filed against agriculture and municipalities. It files lawsuits based around enforcement of every detailed wording in the Clean Water Act.  
“The New York lawsuit, filed in 2010, sought to address stormwater pollution concerns in nearly 300 water bodies in New York, including those under scrutiny in Westchester County. The court rejected the state’s contention that compliance schedules to meet water quality standards are optional in permits, following the precedent of a previous ruling of a federal appeals court rejecting the EPA’s stormwater regulations for the same reasons,” the news release announcing the ruling contended. 

 “The faults in New York’s stormwater permits are emblematic of nationwide deficiencies in addressing stormwater pollution under the Clean Water Act,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of the Waterkeeper Alliance.  “Waterkeeper Alliance and our Waterkeeper organizations across the country seek improved oversight by environmental regulators and meaningful participation in decision-making that affects the quality of our waterways and health of the communities that depend on them."

One part of the lawsuit centered around municipalities that send their runoff into water bodies where the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has established pollution reduction budgets (i.e., TMDLs), and the permit failed to establish “compliance schedules” to reduce runoff.  Waterkeeper claimed these compliance schedules must include both interim and final deadlines, to ensure steady progress towards meeting the state’s long-term pollution reduction targets. Such progress toward meeting standards has also been the contention for Waterkeeper concern with farming operations.