NAPOLEON, OHIO—On July 13, National Environmental Law Center (NELC) attorneys served a formal notice of violation on Campbell Soup Supply Company, alleging that the company’s
Napoleon, Ohio, food and aluminum can manufacturing facility is in chronic violation of the Clean Water Act. Sent on behalf of Environment Ohio and Lake Erie Waterkeeper, the notice identifies unlawful discharges of phosphorus, chemical biological oxygen demand (CBOD), E. coli bacteria, nitrogen, suspended solids, and low oxygen wastewater from the Campbell facility into the Maumee River.

The stretch of the Maumee River below the Campbell discharge has been classified as an impaired waterway by the state of Ohio, meaning the water is contaminated by pollutants and may not be able to support its designated uses. The designated uses for this section of the Maumee include warmwater habitat, agricultural water supply, industrial water supply, and primary contact recreation (i.e., activities such as swimming or canoeing). This part of the Maumee is considered a water quality nonattainment zone due to elevated E. coli levels, elevated nitrates and other nutrients, algae growth, and PCB contamination. Any unlawful discharge into an impaired waterbody can be considered serious

Campbell’s discharges of E. coli bacteria would appear to be contributing directly to the bacterial impairment of the Maumee. Similarly, Campbell’s discharges of phosphorus and nitrogen can be expected to be contributing to eutrophication and adverse algal growth, which can be harmful to human and animal health and can cause conditions of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in the waterway. And this latter condition can also be caused or exacerbated by the discharges of CBOD and low oxygen wastewater.

Moreover, the adverse effects are not limited to the Maumee alone. The Maumee River flows into western Lake Erie, which has for years been plagued by vast areas of harmful algae blooms in the late summer and early fall. It is well understood that phosphorus is the driving force behind the eutrophication leading to these algal blooms, and that the Maumee River is the principal source
of the phosphorus reaching the lake. And the Campbell facility is the largest permitted source of phosphorus discharges to the Maumee. Accordingly, the NELC notice alleges that the Campbell facility is violating a provision in its permit prohibiting the discharge of substances “in amounts that are conducive to the growth of aquatic weeds or algae.”

Under the Clean Water Act, citizen plaintiffs may bring suit to enforce permit limits 60 days after providing formal notice to the violator and state and federal regulators. This gives the violator time to come into sustained compliance and allows the agencies to file their own suit if they choose. If NELC attorneys bring suit against Campbell, the suit will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in Toledo.