River Watch Guest Editorials
To: Eel River Reporter
From: California River Watch
Occidental, Ca 95465
February 15, 2002
Dear River Watchers,
At no time in our history has the environment been under siege from so many sources. Encroaching populations have taken our river's water and replaced them with processed sewage, acid rain, irrigation runoff containing agricultural pollutants such as pesticides, and urban runoff containing heavy metals, petrochemicals and other toxins. Cancer rates, particularly breast cancer, are at epidemic proportions and climbing. Our beloved rivers once teeming with life are now habitat on the decline. We are living through what some experts believe to be the greatest mass extinction ever recorded.
Against this background environmental groups like River Watch seek to stem the tide of governmental inaction, public misinformation and corporate greed. River Watch is a non-profit citizen based environmental enforcement group dedicated to preserving and protecting the waters of Northern California. River Watch identifies pollution and takes action to stop it. River Watch prefers pollution prevention through cooperation rather than litigation. However, if cooperation fails River Watch brings citizens' suit to prevent any further harm to our precious environment.
Upon identifying pollution sources, River Watch contacts the polluter regarding the problem and requests a meeting. If the occurrence involves federal pollution laws such as the Clean Water Act (which covers pollution discharges to surface waters) or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (which covers discharges of pollutants to ground water) River Watch sends the polluter a mandatory intent-to-sue notice letter containing information identifying River Watch's concerns.
In any action River Watch seeks abatement and remediation of the pollution and polluted site as well as payment of remediation funds in lieu of statutory penalties. Under most environmental statutes the law grants both injunctive relief, i.e. stop polluting and clean it up, and monetary penalties of up to $27,500 per day per violation. Unfortunately when the government extracts penalties from polluters, the money does not go back into the environment to redress the harm but into the general treasury. On the other hand, River Watch is able to have the penalty funds redirected back into the community in the form of remediation funds designed to redress the harm caused. We are deeply appreciative of those individuals who love and understand the importance of River Watch and our role in the protection of Northern California's life-giving rivers.
Jack Silver Legal Counsel and River Watch Board