The city of Santa Monica is celebrating the return of its local water supply. In a classic David vs. Goliath case, Santa Monica took on Big Oil to restore the people’s rights to a clean, local water supply. The combination of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks and the addition of MTBE as an oxygenate in gasoline led to massive contamination of Santa Monica’s Charnock well field in the mid 1990s. The groundwater pollution left Santa Monica completely reliant on high priced MWD water imported from the Delta and the Colorado River. Until the wells were shut off in 1996, approximately 70% of the city’s water supply came from local groundwater. After an incredibly hard fought litigation and negotiations, Shell Oil (the biggest aquifer polluter), ExxonMobil and Chevron settled with the city for about $250 million.
In a world that seems increasingly dominated by Big Oil, Santa Monica stood up to the polluters and successfully fought for one of our basic human rights: clean water.