Golden State Water Company Sues Groundwater Polluters And Wins


Golden State Water Company, the public utility and subsidiary of the publicly traded American States Water Company, discovered 1,2,3-TCP in several of its drinking water wells in 2017 during routine testing.

For Golden State, the first step was to shut down the wells and find alternative water sources as an immediate and expensive stopgap measure. As a long-term solution, the water company built two new water treatment plants to return water quality to acceptable standards, which immediately cost in the millions of dollars.

The team at Golden State felt an ethical duty to hold the polluters accountable for contaminating the water with the known carcinogen and decided a lawsuit was the best approach to recoup the costs of cleaning the TCP out of the water.


Golden State began working with SL in 2018. The firm’s approach and willingness to accept payment only if they won the case or settled made it much easier to decide to pursue litigation. The first step in the process was for SL to gather all the facts in the discovery phase, which involved collecting and combing through 1.7 million documents.

“In other litigation, I’ve experienced a tremendous workload. This was such a different experience. SL’s method reduced the workload of my team by at least 80 percent,” said Denise Kruger, Senior Vice President who oversees operations at Golden State.


Golden State obtained a settlement in less than two years. Key to the relatively speedy settlement was a legal strategy to go through federal courts instead of state courts, where a backlog of cases would delay proceedings for years. This TCP case was the first ever to be taken from state to federal court.

Since its victory in late 2019, Golden State has been using the settlement proceeds to pay for the new treatment plant, rather than passing on the costs to their customers. They’re also using it to cover other contamination response costs, including the cost of purchasing expensive replacement water from alternative sources.

“We’re so happy to be able to give it all back to our customers. They shouldn’t have to pay for a polluting corporation’s mistakes,” Kruger said.

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“In other litigation, I’ve experienced a tremendous workload. This was such a different experience. They were already experts in utility operations, so there was no need to educate them. The ramp-up was so fast.”

Denise Kruger

SVP, Golden State Water Company