A pollution watchdog group has sued Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in federal court in San Francisco for allegedly allowing dioxin contamination from its utility poles to drain into the San Francisco Bay.

The lawsuit by the Ecological Rights Foundation says the utility’s wooden power poles are treated with a chemical preservative and insecticide that contains toxic dioxin.

It alleges that during storms, rain washes dioxin off poles in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and San Francisco counties and into the San Francisco Bay in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit alleges, “Once in the environment, these toxic chemicals enter the food chain and cause and threaten to cause cancer, reproductive, developmental and immunological harm to humans and other mammals, fish, birds and other wildlife.”

The suit asks for a court order requiring PG&E to stop the alleged discharges of dioxin. It also asks for civil fines, allowed under the Clean Water Act, of up to $32,500 per violation per day.

The foundation, which is based in Garberville in Humboldt County, filed an amended version of its lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco on Monday. The lawsuit was initially filed last month. It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong in Oakland.

PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman said, “We’re committed to safe environmental practices and our wooden utility poles do not pose a threat to the environment.”

Nauman said the poles used by PG&E in Northern California are similar to those used by other large utilities in Southern California and around the nation.

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