Disney agrees to settle Clean Water Act violations

February 20, 2015

The Walt Disney Company is taking steps to settle a six-year-long lawsuit over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. The company refuses to admit liability, but will take action to prevent contaminated water from entering Los Angeles rivers.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2009 by Environmental World Watch on behalf of itself and local residents, and charged Disney with dumping tainted waste water near its Burbank studios. One of the major pollutants found in the discharge was chromium 6, or hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing heavy metal often used in aerospace manufacturing. According to the LA Times, vintage air conditioning systems were suspected as the one of the causes of chromium 6 contamination of San Fernando Valley groundwater.

Over the six years the lawsuit has evolved into investigations regarding potential violations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act, which prohibits discharge of any pollutants into navigable waters without a federal permit. Disney was found to be allowing landscape irrigation runoff and fire-line flushing, but a judge in 2013 told plaintiffs that they would be required to prove that Disney was discharging pollutants into navigable waters like the Los Angeles River during a trial.

On February 10th, attorneys for both sides decided that a settlement would be a satisfactory resolution to the case. Under the terms of the settlement, Disney continues to deny that it needs federal permits to discharge storm water, but will install drop-inlet filters in six-to-eight catch basins to capture runoff produced at the Burbank studio. Disney will also pay $250,000 to the plaintiffs' lawyers for the cost of litigation. In return, the lawsuit will be closed and Disney will be released from any future claims regarding the issue.

Working with environmental consultants is an excellent way for businesses to avoid litigation of this nature.