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Latrobe Specialty Metals Co. sues EPA in federal court over water pollution standards

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, 10:15 p.m.

A Latrobe specialty steelmaker seeking stormwater discharge permits from the state has sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, claiming it can't meet the agency's pollution standards for discharging metal-laced stormwater from the plant into Loyalhanna Creek.

In the two-count lawsuit filed Jan. 29 against the EPA, Latrobe Specialty Metals Co. LLC said the agency exceeded its authority in establishing the maximum daily load of pollutants — such as aluminum, iron and manganese — that are to flow into streams affected by acid mine drainage in the watersheds of the Kiskiminetas and Conemaugh rivers. Loyalhanna Creek in Latrobe flows into the Kiskiminetas River at Saltsburg.

The company said in its lawsuit naming two EPA employees, Administrator Gina McCarthy and regional administrator in Philadelphia Shawn M. Garvin, that it wants the agency prevented from imposing limits on its stormwater discharges based on the concentration of the pollutants.

The agency should not set the limits based on the average daily mass of pollutants from the plant, according to the lawsuit. The guidelines for meeting the standards, which the EPA said were determined in January 2010, should be determined by the water in the creek, not at a discharge point, the suit states.

If the court denies the company's request for a judgment, Latrobe Specialty Metals wants an order stating that the Clean Water Act is being violated by the standards set for the two watersheds' maximum daily load of pollutants — the amount of a pollutant that can flow into a stream before it exceeds water quality standards.

The company's lawsuit also asks the court to invalidate the rules for maximum daily load of pollutants.

Latrobe Specialty Metals contends the agency wants a significant reduction of stormwater pollution from the plant, even though the regulations indicate no reductions are required, the lawsuit states. Requiring a reduction in pollution from the stormwater is not needed to attain water quality standards, it contends.

The amount of metals flowing from each discharge pipe cannot consistently comply with limits on stormwater pollutants because it depends on several factors, including the length and intensity of a rainstorm, the company contends in the lawsuit.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is doing the preliminary review of Latrobe Specialty Metals' application for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination permit, said John Poister, a DEP spokesman in Pittsburgh. The company applied for the permit in February 2011 and filed for a renewal in December 2015.

“We can't really say at this point what they can or cannot do if they get the renewal. It's still too early in the process,” Poister said.

Though the state is not a party to the lawsuit, it limits what the DEP can say about the renewal at this time, Poister said.

Latrobe Specialty Metals said “substantial controversy” exists over the interpretation of the pollution regulations and how they must be implemented by the state.

William Rudolph Jr., a spokesman for Carpenter Technology Corp. of Wyomissing, the company's parent firm, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The EPA has received the lawsuit and is reviewing it, said David Sternberg, an agency spokesman.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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