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Disney's (Allegedly) Dirty Water: Studio Settles L.A. Pollution Lawsuit

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 12, 2015 3:12 PM

The Walt Disney Company has agreed to pay $250,000 as part of a settlement over alleged water pollution from its studios in Burbank, California.

The settlement ends six years of litigation involving the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Clean Water Act

Passed in 1977, the Clean Water Act prohibits discharge of any pollutants into navigable waters without a federal permit. The Act also authorizes citizens to file civil suits to enforce the law, as was done in this case. The Disney lawsuit was filed by Environmental World Watch, a watchdog group that included local residents.

The Deal

As part of the settlement, Disney is admitting no liability. Plaintiffs accused Disney of dumping contaminated waste water into Los Angeles rivers, but it has now agreed to install filters to capture runoff from parking lots and roads at the studio. The company will also reduce the pollutants in its storm sewers to avoid drainage into nearby navigable waters.

The money settlement will be paid to the plaintiffs, who in turn will release Disney from further claims. The case had been pending in federal court prior to the settlement; the issue of whether the studio violated the Clean Water Act remains unresolved.

Mud on the Mouse

This is not Disney's first scrape with the EPA. As you may recall, the studio's Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando was cited for mishandling toxic waste in 2011. Disney also paid the EPA $375,000 in fines in 1990 after polluting Orlando's Reedy Creek. However, it should be noted that the company's cruise line did receive an environmental "A" from Friends of the Earth for its anti-pollution efforts.

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