Clean Water Activists File Notice of Intent to Sue Erachem Comilog Inc. for Discharging Nitrogen into Curtis Creek
Baltimore, Md. February 1, 2016 – Clean water organizations today filed a notice of intent to sue a chemical factory for releasing more than twelve times permitted levels of nitrogen pollution into a tributary to the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay.
The Erachem Comilog Inc. plant at 610 Pittman Road in northern Anne Arundel County, just south of Baltimore, is owned by the French mining company ERAMET and processes manganese ore into chemicals for the agricultural and electronics industries. In 2014 and 2015, the plant dumped more than 170,000 pounds per year of nitrogen from an outfall into Arundel Cove, which leads into Curtis Creek and then the Patapsco River. That far exceeds the plant’s permitted limit of 13,800 pounds per year, state records show.
Nitrogen pollutions fuels algae blooms, which cause fish-killing low-oxygen “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay and the growth of harmful algae and bacteria, including cyanobacteria and Vibrio, which can cause serious infections in people.
The Erachem plant was the single largest industrial source of toxic pollution to Maryland’s waterways and the fourth largest source of toxic pollution to Maryland’s environment overall, according to the most recent annual data available (2014) in the federal Toxics Release Inventory.
The Environmental Integrity Project and Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper sent a notice to the company, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warning of a lawsuit against Erachem unless the plant stops violating its pollution control permit and an administrative consent agreement with MDE.
“This facility’s violations of the federal Clean Water Act have been excessive and nearly continuous over the last three years, and they must stop immediately,” said Sylvia Lam, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).
The company faces significant civil penalties for more than 700 days of violations from January 2013 to the present, as well as court-ordered actions to address the excessive discharge of nitrogen and other violations. EIP and Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper have been jointly investigating and monitoring the Erachem plant for a year, and have made attempts to avoid filing a legal notice by trying to meet with the company to resolve the problem.
David Flores, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper for Blue Water Baltimore, said: “Erachem’s pollution is seriously damaging the health of Curtis Creek and the Patapsco River. The company must upgrade its wastewater treatment systems so we can start cleaning up these important waterways and protect the fisheries that belong to all Marylanders.”
According to an agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the chemical factory was supposed to have constructed and begun operating a system to remove the nitrogen, called a denitrification plant, by September 4, 2015. In exchange for timely completion, MDE agreed to give Erachem a temporary higher limit for nitrogen — an interim standard of 27,600 pounds per year — while the construction was underway. However, an October 6, 2015 letter from the company to the Environmental Integrity Project and Blue Water Baltimore made it clear that the denitrification plant was not yet installed or operational. The Erachem plant exceeded both the interim standard and the permitted limit.
The plant’s water pollution control permit expired on August 31, 2015, but MDE administratively extended the permit’s coverage. The factory reported discharging 172,158 pounds of nitrogen from its permitted outfall in 2014 and 186,225 pounds in 2015, according to state records.
The goal of the legal notice is to urge Erachem to install the pollution control systems necessary to stop the illegal discharges into Arundel Cove.
Across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, factories, sewage treatment plants, municipal governments and others have been required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce their nitrogen to clean up the bay and meet pollution limits in what is called the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (or TMDL) by 2025.
“It is not fair that Erachem is flouting the law while most other businesses and communities are complying with their permits and making good efforts to help clean up the bay,” said Flores.
The Environmental Integrity Project is a 14 year old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, based in Washington D.C., that works to hold polluters and governments accountable to protect public health.
Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper is a program of the nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore, which is dedicated to restoring Baltimore’s rivers, streams and Harbor to foster a healthy environment, a strong economy, and thriving communities.
For a copy of the notice, click here.
Press contact: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project (443) 510-2574 or firstname.lastname@example.org