The second installment in the OELC’s report on the State’s Clean Water Act Violations in Ohio
(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council
First of all, the Ohio Environmental Law Center (OELC) would like to recognize the 39th Birthday of the Clean Water Act! On October 18, 1972, both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives overrode President Richard Nixon’s veto of the 1972 Amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (otherwise known as the Clean Water Act). Through challenges on jurisdiction, missed deadlines to eliminating pollution (still working on that), to the Act facing its current slings and arrows from the 112th Congress, the CWA has certainly cleaned the nation’s waterways and made water safe for millions of Americans. The Clean Water Act has been most effective at cleaning up pollution from “point sources” such as sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities. In 1970, these sources accounted for 85% of the pollutants in our waters, and today account for only 15%.
However, compliance with the Act’s point source permit requirements by the thousands of regulated facilities in Ohio alone is a challenge. Over 2,000 facilities in Ohio have had at least one effluent violation from their National Pollutant Elimination System (NPDES) permits over the pas three years.
We began the OELC series on Clean Water Act Enforcement and Compliance in Ohio on the theme of “Back to School,” shining a light on just a few of the many public schools that have had multiple and significant Clean Water Act violations for discharging tens, hundreds, even thousands of times the pollution limits in their state permits. As OELC attorneys reviewed thousands of NPDES compliance records, the numbers and amounts of exceedances of pollution limits from these institutions meant to teach our children was alarming.
However, as we recognized in the previous post, those schools are not necessarily the worst polluters in the state over the past three years – not by a long shot. In this installment, we are focusing on the biggest NPDES violators in Ohio – the five facilities that, over the last three years, had over 100 effluent exceedances into already pollution impaired waters to the state.
In order to meet the promise of the Clean Water Act, we need to have strict enforcement of the permits and certifications, resulting in strict compliance with the letter and spirit of the law. We need Good Actors incentivized to continue to be Good Actors. We need disincentives that are strong and consistent, to turn Bad Actors (i.e. recitative violators) into Good Actors. And of course, we resources for the state and federal regulators to monitor and investigate the thousands of regulated facilities, and the human resources of citizens to take the charge of being enforcers of the Act in their community.
“Can we afford clean water? Can we afford rivers and lakes and streams and oceans which continue to make life possible on this planet? Can we afford life itself? … These questions answer themselves.” Senator Edmund Muskie’s question to his Senate colleagues in urging an override of President Nixon’s veto of the Clean Water Act on Oct. 17, 1972
OK, shining a light on 844 pollution incidents in three years from the five facilities below, is not the best way to celebrate one’s 39th birthday. Yet, the hope is that by next year, the Clean Water Act’s 40th will be cleaner.
Millborne Manor (Permit ID: OH0129836 )is a Mobile Home Community in Orrville, OH, discharging into an unnamed tributary to Sugar Creek in the Tuscarawas River Watershed. Millborne Manor’s 107 pollution limit exceedances over the past 12 Quarters have included: Fecal Coliform exceedances up to 1900%; Nitrogen exceedances up to 3,680%; Phosphorus Violations exceeding 953%; and Total Suspended Solids exceedances from 42% to 983%.
Vagabond Village (Permit ID: OH0132462) has had, over the past three years, 110 effluent exceedances violations, including violations for nitrogen, total suspended solids and fecal coliform. Vagabond Village’s discharges into the Upper Maumee River, in a stretch designated in as impaired.
Over this 12 quarter period, Vagabond’s exceedances of fecal coliform have ranged from 4,900% to a high of 12,300%; exceeded limits for Nitrogen ranging from 7,010% to 21,000%, and Total Suspended Solids up to 3,550%.
Hilltop Meats (Permit ID: OH0134112) has experienced 140 exceedances over the past 12 quarters. This facility, located in Harrison, Ohio on the western edge of Hamilton County, discharges into Lower Great Miami, on an impaired stretch of the Great Miami.
Hilltop’s Clean Water Act violations for effluent exceedances include: Oil and grease exceedances of up to 3,650% its permit limit; Fecal Coliform exceedances up to 1,900%; and Nitrogen exceedances ranging from 4,900% to a staggering 95,900%.
To Ohio EPA’s credit, the Agency has issued eight (8) letters of violation to Hilltop since 2007.
The Holmes Cheese Company (Permit ID: OH0075922) discharges from its treatment works into Corns Run in the Walhonding Watershed — a CWA 303 (d) listed impaired water).
Over the aforementioned Three-Year compliance period, Holmes Cheese has had 165 effluent exceedances, with a great number coming in the first six months of 2011. For example, from the company’s Discharge point 001: Total Solids exceedances ranged from 229% to 1,817%; from 1,338% to 1,983% exceedances for Phosphorus; and Fecal Coliform exceedances from 72% to 1,233%. In its second Discharge point (point 601) Phosphorus exceedances ranged between 2,393% to 2,954% and its Fecal Coliform exceedances ranged from 268% to 599%.
Belden Brick Company(Permit ID: OH0008141), in Sugarcreek, Ohio, however takes first prize in the number of exceedances over the past 12 quarters – 322. To Belden Brick’s defense, the company has a large number of outfalls from many mining operations, manufacturing plants, and its Central Maintenance Locations discharging into unnamed tributaries to the South Fork of Sugar Creek, Turkeyfoot Run, and an unnamed tributary of Broad Run in the Tuscarawas River Watershed. What also makes Belden Brick different is the types of pollutants discharged. For example, unlike the schools and the four previous facilities above who have exceedances for Nitrogen and Fecal Coliform, Belden Brick’s key violations are for exceedances of Total Iron and Total Manganese. From these 322 exceedances, the Ohio EPA has issued the facility 12 notices of violations.
The totals come from US EPA data supplied by the NPDES permit holders themselves. The US EPA data is presented in total exceedances over each of 12 quarters, and current to April – June 2011.