Vacaville not liable for polluted water, court says


(Stock image)

A federal appeals court has tossed a lawsuit brought by environmental activists that accused the City of Vacaville of failing to inspect and clean tap water imported from wells that was determined to have high levels of hexavalent chromium (“Chromium 6”).

The move comes less than a year after the same court revered a district judge’s determination that the City of Vacaville should be awarded summary judgment in the case because the local government could not be held liable for the pollutant found in the water.

Last week, the court reversed itself after being supplied with additional written argument from both sides, with a three-judge panel finding that the suit should be tossed.

An appellate judge who initially dissented ultimately warned that holding the City of Vacaville responsible for Chromium 6 found in water it pumped from wells could set a precedent that made ranchers, farmers and homeowners liable for the same in the future.

The lawsuit was initially brought by California River Watch in 2017 after independet testing found higher-than-usual levels of Chromium 6 in some tap water pumped in by the city. Officials with the City of Vacaville have asserted that the water is safe to drink and otherwise use.

In a statement, a city official said state regulators were in the process of re-evaluating its rules regarding Chromium 6 levels in drinking water, and that if the state required tougher measures, the City of Vacaville would conduct additional treatment.

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