The Ohio River, which flows along the border between the Southern and Midwestern U.S., is a unique ecological habitat for 160 species of fish and an invaluable water source for millions of people. In the 1980s, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation routinely discharged wastewater containing excess quantities of toxic pollutants and suspended solids from its Martins Ferry, OH, galvanizing facility into this vital water resource.

To stop these discharges, NELC filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Ohio Public Interest Research Group against Wheeling-Pittsburgh in 1988. Following two years of extensive litigation, the parties agreed to a consent decree on the eve of trial in 1990. The settlement required the company to achieve compliance with its effluent limits, remove hexavalent chromium from its discharge, perform compliance upgrades, and pay a $700,000 penalty, $600,000 of which was used to fund environmental projects along the Ohio River, including the purchase and preservation of Ohio River islands.