CLF Praises EPA Enforcement to Stop Toxic Pollution of Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, NH

Action Comes at Urging of CLF to End Toxic Stormwater Discharges

Contact:
Karen Wood, (617) 850-1722,
kwood@clf.org
Tom Irwin, (603) 225-3060,
tirwin@clf.org

CONCORD, NH April 6, 2011 — Today, at the urging of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an administrative order requiring Grimmel Industries to take prompt action to clean up toxic stormwater discharges to the Piscataqua River. Grimmel Industries operates a massive scrap metal collection and shipping facility at the Pease Development Authority’s Market Street Terminal, in Portsmouth, on the banks of the river.

“For too long, this facility has been discharging mercury, PCBs and other pollutants into the Piscataqua River,” said Tom Irwin, CLF New Hampshire director.  “It’s simply unacceptable for this or any facility to discharge such toxic contaminants into this river – a critical coastal resource for New Hampshire – or into any of our waterways.  These discharges are in clear violation of the Clean Water Act; we’re pleased that the EPA is taking action to force compliance.”

Based on stormwater discharge data from the Market Street Terminal, last fall CLF had been preparing to file a Clean Water Act citizen suit against Grimmel to force an end to its toxic pollution, require improved stormwater management, and remedy past violations. In November 2010, CLF wrote EPA to bring to its attention the evidence of frequent discharges of mercury and PCBs – two persistent, bioaccumulative toxins that build up in fish tissues – and other violations of the facility’s Clean Water Act permit. When CLF disclosed the data and concerns to EPA, however, it became clear that EPA, itself, was interested in addressing the problem.

“These toxic discharges, and other failures to properly manage stormwater pollution from the site, are in clear violation of the Clean Water Act,” added Irwin. “We’re pleased that EPA is taking action to force compliance. The Clean Water Act demands, and our water bodies need and deserve, no less.”

“CLF supports working water fronts and metals recycling,” Irwin further stated.  “But it’s essential that activities taking place on our waterfronts comply with the Clean Water Act to ensure that our waters – such as the Piscataqua River and Great Bay – are protected for current and future generations.”

Background

Stormwater runoff from certain categories of industrial facilities (including scrap metal operations) is regulated by the U.S. EPA, due to their high potential to pollute nearby waterways.  Industrial activities subject to this regulation must apply to U.S. EPA for coverage under the EPA’s Multi-Sector General Permit, and take specific measures, including the development and implementation of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, to control pollutants on their site.  Facilities that fail to comply with this permit are subject to enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act, including actions by the U.S. EPA and citizen suits brought by citizen groups such as CLF.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.