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Filtration plant operator sued for polluting Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay

February 18, 2014
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Gary Andrashko/iStockphoto/Thinkstock

A coalition of environmental protection groups has launched a lawsuit in a federal court against the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) for violations of the Clean Water Act, accusing it of polluting the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP)
, which represents the Potomac Riverkeeper, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed papers in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, claiming that the WSSC had discharged sediments and aluminum into both waterways from its Potomac Water Filtration Plant between September 2009 and December 2013.

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The EIP estimated that millions of gallons of wastewater containing sediments and aluminum were released each day. Moreover, the facility has been operating under a five-year license that expired more than a decade ago. The lawsuit asks the court to penalize WSSC for repeatedly breaching the Clean Water Act and wants the Maryland Department of Environment to issue a new permit to the WSSC with new, tighter regulation.

According to the claimants, dumping sediments into the river and the Chesapeake Bay causes serious damage to the waterway ecosystems because it prevents fish eggs from developing, depletes oxygen and interferes with aquatic plant growth. Pollution could also severely harm the population of aquatic animals, including oysters, clams, snails and crabs, the EIP stated.

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