TOLEDO, Ohio – The non-profit groups Environment America (d/b/a Environment Ohio) and Lake Erie Waterkeeper announced Wednesday that they have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against Campbell Soup Supply Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Campbell Soup, Inc., for thousands of alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act at its canning factory on the banks of the Maumee River in Napoleon, Ohio. 

The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also filed its own lawsuit Wednesday, concerning the same violations and seeking the same relief.  The environmental groups have been working cooperatively with the federal agencies and expect the two suits to be consolidated into a single case.

“We commend Campbell for its willingness to work cooperatively with us and the federal government to forthrightly address its longstanding compliance problems rather than spend its time litigating,” said Josh Kratka, a senior attorney at the National Environmental Law Center, which represents the citizen groups. “Filing our lawsuit today will simply enable us to move forward quickly should negotiations break down later.” 

Environment Ohio and Lake Erie Waterkeeper seek to put an end to what they say are years of illegal discharges from the Campbell facility. Campbell’s sprawling Napoleon plant generates more than 5 million gallons of wastewater each day and discharges it into the Maumee River about 45 miles upstream of Toledo.  That contaminated water flows downstream into Lake Erie. 

“Western Lake Erie is plagued annually by toxic algal blooms, and pollution flowing into the lake from the Maumee River is a primary culprit,” explained Sandy Bihn, who has served as the Lake Erie Waterkeeper since 2004.  “Campbell Soup’s persistent violations of its legally mandated limits on discharges of phosphorous and other organic pollutants are only making the problem worse.”

After the groups sent a notice of intent to sue last July, negotiators from the two environmental groups, the federal government and Campbell Soup began meeting and exchanging information, with the aim of reaching a court-enforced settlement. All parties expect negotiations to continue without pause despite the lawsuit filings.  

The complaint filed Wednesday by Environment Ohio and Lake Erie Waterkeeper alleges that Campbell’s own monitoring reports show the company has committed thousands of Clean Water Act violations over the past five years, routinely discharging wastewater with illegally high levels of phosphorous, the prime chemical contributor to Lake Erie’s algal blooms; E. coli bacteria; oil and grease; suspended solids, and other harmful pollutants.   

“The toxic algae in Lake Erie is hardly the kind of soup that Ohioans want from a company like Campbell,” said John Rumpler, the Clean Water Program Director for Environment Ohio.  “Installing a modern wastewater treatment system to end its Clean Water Act violations is nothing less than what Campbell’s millions of loyal consumers would expect.”

Under the Clean Water Act, private citizens affected by violations of the law are allowed to bring an enforcement action directly against the violator in federal court. Citizens are authorized to seek civil penalties payable to the federal government and a court order requiring the violator to take steps to comply with the law and remediate its past harm, all of which the groups seek in their complaint.


Environment Ohio is a citizen-based, non-profit, environmental advocacy organization that promotes clean air, clean water, and open space protection.  It is a state project of Environment America.  For more information, visit

Lake Erie Waterkeeper is a licensed member of the international organization Waterkeeper Alliance and advocates for swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters in the Lake Erie watershed. For more information, visit  

The groups are represented by the Boston-based, non-profit National Environmental Law Center (, which represents citizen groups across the country in actions to enforce the nation’s environmental laws, and by attorneys Christos Georgalis and Matthew Jalandoni of the Cleveland firm Flannery Georgalis LLC.