Lawsuit: Treatment plant polluting river
A Warren County wastewater treatment plant is violating federal and state laws by discharging improperly treated oil and gas waste fluids into the Allegheny River, an environmental organization claimed in a federal lawsuit filed today.
Clean Water Action filed the case against Waste Treatment Corp. in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania after alerting the company in July about its intention to sue.
Clean Water Action said the company has violated permit limits on its discharges more than 400 times since 2010. The environmental group argues that the plant is also operating under a permit that does not allow it to discharge drilling wastewater at all but it continues to release about 200,000 gallons a day into the river while DEP considers the terms of a new permit.
“We would like to see some action taken to make sure that that kind of damaging and, we think, illegal discharge is stopped” while DEP sets appropriate permit limits, Clean Water Action’s Pennsylvania state director Myron Arnowitt said.
DEP has taken recent steps to address compliance issues at the plant, including filing a notice of coming legal action in Commonwealth Court last month. Arnowitt said the filing does not detail the state’s complaints against the company and a DEP spokesman said he could not comment Monday.
DEP issued a violation notice against the company in September for discharging pollution into state waters. And in 2012, DEP scientists studying the treatment plant’s impact on aquatic life found high levels of salts and metals in the water downstream and radioactive material and petroleum oils in the stream bed sediment. In a January report describing their findings (posted below) the scientists wrote that the plant’s discharge “is negatively affecting the Allegheny River” and its water chemistry “is certainly affecting the biotic community downstream,” where there were fewer sensitive forms of aquatic organisms and more pollution-tolerant ones.
A Waste Treatment Corp. representative did not respond to a request for comment. The company has said it has not accepted wastewater from shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing since 2011, although it treats other forms of oil and gas wastewater. The Marcellus Shale industry stopped taking wastewater to state plants that are not governed by strict limits on the amount of salt they can discharge into waterways that same year.
Clean Water Action is asking a judge to fine Waste Treatment Corp. and stop it from operating the plant until it can meet the standards of federal and state clean water laws and the Endangered Species Act. It also wants the court to require the company to study and clean up the damage to the river.