City signs agreement to settle sewer lawsuit

July 04, 2002 12:00 am

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

The Crescent City City Council officially agreed to a mediated resolution between Crescent City and Northern California River Watch this week.

"This is one of the few instances where River Watch lost money suing a public entity, because they didn't get all their legal fees," said Crescent City Attorney Dohn Henion.

The environmental watchdog group filed a lawsuit against the city last year for $46,887,500, citing 1,705 violations of the city's wastewater treatment plant from April 1996 to April 2001.

City officials complained that River Watch's violation total was extremely exaggerated and the group refused to be specific about the violations. Henion said the city could find only 146 violations during the same five-year period.

In the agreement, River Watch attorney Jack Silver will receive $25,000 in legal expenses incurred and no settlement money will go to River Watch as an entity.

"Normally they get $75,000 to $100,000 for their various environmental projects," said Henion. "They didn't get any of that from us."

Another stipulation is Crescent City will hire an independent environmental consultant to examine the operation at the city's wastewater treatment plant.

"We've said all along that we were OK with that," said Henion. "If he's got some good ideas we're willing to listen to them." Henion said the consultant will cost approximately $7,500.

Henion said the total the city will have paid in expenses since the lawsuit was filed is about $40,000.

He said yesterday there are negotiations with Del Norte County to pick up part of that cost since the treatment plant also serves the county.

According to the federal court's civil finding's index, River Watch filed 22 similar suits in the Ninth Circuit alone since 1996. It has threatened litigation and obtained monetary settlements in many other instances.