Fountain Creek: Colorado appeals court rules that the Pueblo District Attorney is not authorized to sue Colorado Springs for pollution under the Clean Water Act


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nixes Thiebaut’s intention to sue the city again for discharging pollutants from its sewage system into the creek. Thiebaut said, however, his 2005 lawsuit, under the federal clean water law, prompted Colorado Springs to improve its sewage system, which discharges into the creek. “It is important to take stock of what this suit has accomplished for our community,” Thiebaut said. “No one has ever stood up against Colorado Springs on behalf of Pueblo before this suit was filed.”[…]

Thiebaut said Wednesday his lawsuit “woke up Colorado Springs to the fact that they would no longer get away with their shoddy practices and cheap stream crossings. “To avoid the full power of the court, they began to spend a lot of money to clean up their act, improving their sewage treatment system and stream crossings — and they need to do even more,” he said…

The Denver-based appeals court’s 3-0 decision said Thiebaut had conceded he, as an individual citizen, was entitled to have sued Colorado Springs under the federal water law. He chose, instead, to sue in his official capacity as district attorney. The appeals court agreed with [U.S. District Court judge, Walker Miller, who threw out Thiebaut’s lawsuit in 2007] that the Colorado law which outlines the duties of district attorneys does not give them authority to sue under the Clean Water Act.

Here’s the order from

More coverage from Associated Press via The Durango Herald:

Thiebaut’s lawsuit in 2005 argued that discharges of sewage between 1998 and 2007 were violating the Clean Water Act, hurting Fountain Creek and affecting Pueblo County’s economy. His lawsuit sought civil penalties. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a district court that found Thiebaut couldn’t file a citizen Clean Water Act lawsuit in his official capacity. Thiebaut said his office was reviewing the ruling before deciding what’s next…

The Sierra Club also sued over the spills. A judge fined the utility $35,500 to settle the Sierra Club’s claims.

Colorado Springs Utilities’ pipes cross creeks dozens of times, leaving them somewhat at risk in times of rainstorms, utility spokesman Steve Berry said. He said that since 2004, before Thiebaut sued, the municipal utility has invested more than $147 million in improving its wastewater collection system, which he said is now among the best-performing systems in the state. It expects to have spent $250 million by 2018, he said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

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