Thursday 19 October 2017

Poorly planned and weakly enforced infrastructure repairs have created a vicious cycle.

David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper with Blue Water Baltimore, says that federal and state regulators have not diligently enforced the consent decree to keep the city on track. “The city set out to undertake all of this stuff over 14 years ago, and they didn't do it,” he says. “The regulators didn’t hold the city accountable, and as early as 2013, they were working to extend the timeline.“

Read more: CityLab.com, May 31, 2016

 

Congratulations to the Gunpowder Riverkeeper Theaux Gardeur for ensuring that Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC will conduct fish sampling required by a recent settlement agreement. 

On March 16th, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County entered a settlement resolving litigation among the Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Columbia, and the Maryland Department of the Environment over a 21 mile natural gas pipeline that Columbia is constructing from Baltimore County to Harford County.  The pipeline will cross 81 streams that collectively provide drinking water to approximately 1.8 million residents in the Baltimore area and support sensitive trout species. 

As part of the settlement, Columbia agreed to conduct fish sampling at five streams before they are crossed by the pipeline.  A primary purpose of this “before” sampling is to provide baseline data that will allow the Riverkeeper and the public to more precisely understand the water quality impacts that result from the construction activities. 

Columbia obtained a permit from the Department of Natural Resources to conduct the sampling, but standard DNR protocol requires this type of work to occur after June 1.  Not wanting to delay their construction project by approximately 30 days, Columbia asked the Gunpowder Riverkeeper to agree to waive the sampling requirement. 

The Riverkeeper said no, and filed an emergency motion with the court to enforce the settlement.  In response to that motion, Columbia agreed to alter its construction schedule and to perform the sampling.

The Gunpowder Riverkeeper’s refusal to back down ensures that important data will be gathered, and it sends a clear message to Columbia that it will be held accountable for fulfilling all its settlement obligations. 

Chesapeake Legal Alliance volunteer attorneys Ross Phillips and William Anderson assisted the Gunpowder Riverkeeper with this matter.

On March 28 2016 attorneys for Anacostia Riverkeeper, a local advocacy organization working to protect and restore the Anacostia River, filed a complaint in the current civil enforcement action taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against PEPCO for Clean Water Act violations. The federal government charged PEPCO with illegally discharging hundreds of pounds of toxic heavy metals for over five years into the Anacostia River at its Benning Road facility.  These toxic metals include copper, zinc, iron and lead. For a copy of the complaint, see https://goo.gl/53wjxj.
Anacostia Riverkeeper notified EPA that it would take action to stop these violations in Sept. 2015 when it filed a Notice of Intent to Sue under the Act. These unlawful discharges are ongoing and continuous, and involve dangerous toxic metals that violate PEPCO’s permit for at least the past five years.PEPCO’s extensive history of ongoing illegal discharges into the Anacostia River pose unacceptable risks of adverse health effects that threaten all users, including subsistence fishermen and casual visitors, while severely delaying progress toward clean up and restoration of this vital and historic watershed. DC and Maryland agencies have warned for years that local fisherman and their families should avoid eating fish caught from the Anacostia River because of toxic pollutants. The pollutants in the river accumulate in the tissue of the fish. Despite the risks and warnings, an estimated 17,000 people regularly eat fish taken from the Anacostia River. Anacostia Riverkeeper is deeply alarmed that EPA and the DC government tolerated these violations by PEPCO for so many years.
“It is unfortunate that it has taken several years and the force of legal action against Pepco by Anacostia Riverkeeper, for EPA to step up and take notice of PEPCO’s continued disregard for the law. We will continue to hold both EPA and PEPCO accountable for up holding the Clean Water Act and advocate for the health of our citizens and the environment,” said Emily Franc of Anacostia Riverkeeper.
Read more: The Southwester, May 10, 2016