DC water supplier sued for CWA, water quality violations

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WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 12, 2014 -- For violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) -- owner of the Potomac Water Filtration Plant -- has been sued in federal court for polluting the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Attorneys from Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), on behalf of the Potomac Riverkeeper, together with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), filed a lawsuit today against WSSC in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland for unregulated polluted wastwater discharges from the filtration plant. The organizations allege that the WSSC facility has and continues to emit millions of pounds of sediments, or total suspended solids (TSS), and aluminum directly into the river.

The Potomac Water Filtration Plant is located near Seneca, Md., and discharges up to 15.8 million gallons per day (average discharge is 8 MGD) of wastewater into the Potomac River. The facility provides drinking water to the majority of Maryland residents in Montgomery County and parts of Prince George's County, and has been operating under a 5-year permit that expired nearly 12 years ago.

As a result of a defective solids treatment unit at the site, the health of the river and Bay have been compromised. WSSC discharged approximately 30 million more pounds of TSS than it took in and added approximately 1.5 million pounds of aluminum -- just in the last four years -- resulting from tens of thousands of pounds of chemicals added every week to aid the ailing treatment proces. As such, significant amounts of aluminum in the discharge can have adverse impacts on fish population and benthic communities.

Prior to filing their case, and as required by federal law, the plaintiffs first submitted a 60-day notice of intent to sue letter (NOI), dated November 13, 2013, to WSSC, as well as state and federal regulators. The lawsuit filed today seeks penalties for illegal discharges and other violations of WSSC's permit and asks the Court to require WSSC to identify and address the design and operational problems with the solids treatment unit.

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