NEW HAVEN, Conn.—On October 18, United States District Court Judge Jeffrey Meyer approved a consent decree that fully settled NELC’s Clean Water Act lawsuit against a Glastonbury metal fabrication and galvanizing facility. This settlement highlights one of our core tenets—anti- pollution laws do not work on their own. They require enforcement, and thanks to your support we were able to use the law to ensure clean water for two streams in Connecticut.
“This facility has persistently discharged toxic heavy metals into Hubbard Brook and Salmon Brook at concentrations well above what is permitted, including zinc at more than a thousand times the legal limit,” said NELC Attorney Kevin Budris. According to Connecticut Galvanizing’s own monitoring reports, the facility has violated pollutant limits every quarter since October 2011.
The facility, which conducts much of its operations outside and exposed to rainfall, had for many years delayed the implemen- tation of measures to reduce the levels of zinc, lead, copper, and other pollutants in its stormwater discharges. Such measures are required by the Clean Water Act, and the company’s refusal to address stormwater contamination at the facility endangered the fish and other wildlife that inhabit these waterways.
Analyses of the facility’s stormwater runoff have consistently indicated that it is toxic to aquatic life. And the effects of the long history of toxic runoff can be seen in the streams: testing commissioned by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection shows that Hubbard Brook and its wetlands are polluted with zinc at concentrations lethal to aquatic organisms.
NELC filed suit on January 14, 2016, on behalf of Toxics Action Center (“TAC”) and Environment Connecticut, to overcome years of inaction by the State of Connecticut and put an end to this unlawful pollution.
With assistance from a wastewater-engineering expert, NELC attorneys developed a set of proposed operation and maintenance upgrades designed to prevent metals from contaminating the stormwater. After several rounds of negotiation conducted over the summer, the company agreed to a consent decree that includes these upgrades.
“This settlement not only fixes a problem in Glastonbury; it will enable our organization to tackle a number of other problems in Connecticut’s riverways.”
— EILEEN FIELDING, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE FARMINGTON RIVER WATERSHED ASSOCIATION
The consent decree also requires the facility to install a stormwater collection and treatment system to remove heavy metals and other pollutants that reach the stormwater despite the operational controls. Together, the treatment system and control measures will significantly reduce the pollutant levels in the facility’s stormwater discharges.
“This settlement is a victory for Glastonbury neighbors living near Salmon Brook and Hubbard Brook and for countless residents who swim, boat, and fish along the Connecticut river,” said Sylvia Broude, executive director of Toxics Action Center. One of those neighbors, TAC member Joe Damon, is pleased that the consent decree requires the facility to install the treatment system by June 30, 2017, or face fines for delays. “Salmon Brook goes by my house, and i am thrilled to learn that these brooks will be cleaner and healthier,” said Mr. Damon. “We now have benchmarks and real deadlines to move this forward.”
The companies must also pay a $188,000 penalty and will be subject to additional fines if the facility fails to comply with all Clean Water Act pollution limits by the June 30, 2017, deadline. Most of the penalty will be paid to the Farmington river Watershed Association to fund the development and installation of stormwater pollution control measures on tributaries of the Farmington river, which, like Salmon Brook and Hubbard Brook, is within the Connecticut river Watershed in the Hartford area.
Eileen Fielding, executive director of the Farmington river Watershed Association, was grateful for NELC’s work in achieving the settlement and securing funds for further pollution prevention. “This settlement not only fixes a problem in Glastonbury; it will enable our organization to tackle a number of other problems in Connecticut’s riverways,” said Ms. Fielding.
The consent decree, the culmination of NELC’s year-long efforts to protect these waterways, illustrates the important role that citizen groups play in the implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, and shows that cooperative efforts among environmental professionals and concerned citizens can fashion meaningful solutions to longstanding pollution problems.
As noted by TAC’s Sylvia Broude, “This is a powerful example of the opportunity the Clean Water Act provides for citizens to take action to protect their communities from harmful pollution.”