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By Lillian Boyd and Shawn Raymundo

A preliminary court ruling issued last week places Moulton Niguel Water District on the hook for roughly $2 million in delinquent payments related to capital improvement and maintenance costs for a wastewater treatment facility at Aliso Creek.

The Riverside County Superior Court on Tuesday, Feb. 26, tentatively ruled that Moulton Niguel is responsible for paying its share of the bills toward the Coast Treatment Plant’s upkeep in Laguna Niguel until February 2030.

Moulton Niguel “is legally obligated to pay its proportional share of all costs, including capital costs and items, necessary to operate and maintain the Coastal Treatment Plant,” the tentative ruling states.

As members of a joint agreement with the South Orange County Wastewater Authority (SOCWA), Moulton Niguel, South Coast Water District, Emerald Bay Service District and the city of Laguna Beach are each required to pay a certain portion of costs to maintain the treatment plant.

Back in May 2017, SOCWA filed a lawsuit against Moulton Niguel, alleging that since July 2016, the agency had stopped making payments toward the upkeep of the facility, which serves several cities, including Dana Point, Laguna Beach and parts of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

“In all points that we brought forward for judgment, it was a clean sweep, and it’s such a good decision and day for South Orange County taxpayers,” said Steve Greyshock, a spokesperson for SOCWA.

Moulton Niguel Assistant General Manager Matt Collings explained that Moulton Niguel doesn’t send any water to the treatment plant, so its customers don’t reap any benefits from the facility.

“The central issue from the SOCWA lawsuit continues to be: the Coastal Treatment Plant is too big, too expensive and too burdensome, resulting in millions of dollars of subsidies by our customers who receive no benefit,” Moulton Niguel said in a prepared statement on the tentative ruling.

WHAT’S NEXT: Collings said that a decision has not been made yet as to whether Moulton Niguel will appeal the tentative ruling.

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