Warren County treatment plant wants federal lawsuit tossed out
A Warren County industrial treatment plant that entered into a consent decree in state court wants a judge to throw out an environmental group's federal lawsuit, which it contends covers the same issues.
Waste Treatment Corp. of Warren on Friday filed an answer to the lawsuit that asks U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Reed Eddy to order Clean Water Action to pay the company's attorney fees in the case.
Matthew Wolford, the attorney for Waste Treatment, said Clean Water Action knew before it sued in October that the state Department of Environmental Protection in September filed an enforcement action in Commonwealth Court.
Before the group could sue, it had to file a notice with the company and state and federal regulators. One purpose of the notice is to allow regulators to decide whether they want to take action, he said.
“Only if none of these things happens can you go forward with the citizen's suit,” Wolford said.
Myron Arnowitt, state director of Clean Water Action, said the DEP had to meet several criteria under the federal law before it could preclude the citizen's lawsuit.
“We don't see that as having been met,” he said.
The group has problems with the proposed consent decree, which would allow the company to keep operating under its permit until 2016 while setting interim limits for total dissolved solids and salts.
“They're essentially going to be allowed to continue their discharge at roughly the same (pollutant) amount for that two-year period,” Arnowitt said.
A related problem is that the Clean Water Act and several court decisions have said states can't alter a discharge permit without going through the permitting process, yet the consent decree effectively does that, he said.
The group claims in its lawsuit that the treatment plant discharged wastewater containing higher concentrations of salt than seawater. The excessive salt was measured in the discharges at least 25 times since December 2011, the lawsuit says.
The company and the DEP reached an agreement that requires the plant to upgrade its ability to treat total dissolved solids and salts. The agreement requires Waste Treatment Corp. to monitor for radium.
The state detected radioactive materials in the river but hasn't found their source, Wolford said.
Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.