Environment
9:00 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Environmental Groups Suing Pittsburgh-Based Company over Alleged River Pollution

PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club have filed suit against PPG Industries over what they say are ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Erika Staaf is a clean water advocate for PennEnvironment. She said that the lawsuit singles out the Ford City waste site, which is about 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Armstrong County. The site covers nearly 150 acres and includes 77 acres of waste slurry lagoons. Staaf said that the slurry in those lagoons contain high levels of metals.

"Particularly arsenic, lead, antimony, iron, aluminum, and chromium, and is highly corrosive," said Staaf. "The waste leaks through the rock face, creating numerous seeps along the southern portion of the site which then empty into the Allegheny River."

The lawsuit contends that PPG has failed for decades to install a treatment system to remove or minimize the pollutants that it discharges, and has failed to obtain the required Clean Water Act permits for its discharges.

Staaf said that the lawsuit seeks to bring PPG into compliance. "We do want penalties. We want the company to be penalized," Staaf said. "We believe that an appropriate penalty would send a message to this and other companies that it's not necessarily cheaper to pollute than to comply with the law."

As required by the Clean Water Act, PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club sent a 60-day notice letter to PPG in early November declaring their intent to sue. PPG never contacted the groups nor their lawyers. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in federal court.

UPDATE: 1/06/12

Due to a filing error, PennEnvironment's lawsuit against PPG had to be withdrawn. Erika Staaf says they plan to re-file, but have to wait another 60 days under the Clean Water Act.