Environmental groups pressure central Pa. food company to clean up wastewater plant

  • Rachel McDevitt

Environmental groups are pressuring a York County food processor to fix problems at its wastewater treatment plant.

The Environmental Integrity Project and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association filed a notice of intent to sue Hanover Foods Corporation Tuesday. They say the Hanover plant in Penn Township is in violation of a 2015 permit, the federal Clean Water Act and state Clean Streams Law by illegally discharging pollution into nearby streams that ultimately flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

The plant packages frozen, canned, and jarred vegetables. Most of its industrial wastewater, a monthly average of 450,000 gallons per day, is pretreated and sent to Penn Township’s wastewater treatment plant, according to a 2020 Department of Environmental Protection compliance inspection report included in the notice. The rest is treated on site then released into Oil Creek.

The groups say records from the DEP and the company show the plant has consistently released more pollutants into Oil Creek than permitted. Pollutants include sediment, ammonia and bacteria that can affect habitat and wildlife in waterways.

The advocates say that because Oil Creek runs to Codorus Creek and then to the Susquehanna River, the pollution threatens the region’s abundant recreational uses, including kayaking, fishing, and birdwatching.

Environmental Integrity Project staff attorney Natalia Cabrera said their goal is for Hanover to fully evaluate the treatment plant’s failures to see what’s causing the violations, then take steps to make sure the violations don’t continue.

The notice lays out eight counts of violations that range from exceeding pollution and temperature limits in discharge, failure to report problems in a timely manner, and failure to properly operate and maintain facilities.

DEP accepted a permit renewal application from Hanover in June 2020. It is still under technical review, so the terms of the 2015 permit are still effective. Cabrera said the Clean Water Act prohibits weakening permit limits from a prior permit in a renewal.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, the groups gave a notice of intent to sue 60 days before filing the suit in Pennsylvania’s U.S Middle District Court. Hanover could address issues listed in the filing within that time.

Hanover Foods did not respond to requests for comment.

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