November 20, 2023 (BOSTON, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has settled three lawsuits against six companies owned by Schnitzer Steel over Clean Water Act violations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico. The companies’ stormwater runoff at eleven scrap metal facilities has been polluting nearby rivers and coastlines with toxic metals like lead, zinc, copper, and petroleum products every time it rains. Schnitzer companies will pay nearly $2 million to six community organizations working to restore the local waters.
“These settlements are a big win for the communities that use the Blackstone, Mystic, and Merrimack Rivers,” said CLF Vice President Heather Govern. “Not only will they reduce harmful contamination, but the payments to the local advocacy groups will further supplement the water quality benefits.”
The Schnitzer facilities are in Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire; Attleboro, Worcester, and Everett, Massachusetts; and Bayamón, Caguas, Canóvanas, Ponce, and Salinas Puerto Rico. Every time it rains, toxic chemicals from the piles of broken and rusted metal on each of these sites flow directly to the Blackstone River, the Merrimack River, the Mystic River, and several bays and rivers in Puerto Rico. This type of runoff contributes to poor water quality, harming natural ecosystems and marine life.
“The Blackstone River Coalition is truly grateful for the funding to continue the systematic monitoring of seventy-five sites by more than 100 well-trained, dedicated citizen scientists,” said Blackstone River Coalition Coordinator Peter Coffin. “Along with our partners, we look forward to developing access to the River and providing public education and outreach to environmental justice communities throughout the watershed.”
“Environmental justice communities have a disproportionate share of toxic and environmental burdens,” said Greenroots Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni. “It is gratifying to see environmental laws being enforced, violators being penalized and mitigation funds being invested in neighborhoods impacted by decades of environmental injustice and toxic harm. With the mitigation funding GreenRoots received from this settlement, we will be increasing access to the Mill Creek waterfront for our residents and neighboring communities. We will be improving water quality, restoring estuaries and putting the health and well-being of our community first. We’re proud to partner with CLF on major environmental wins for our community and all environmental justice communities.”
“Everyone deserves access to nature, greenspace, and a healthy environment,” said Mystic River Watershed Association Executive Director Patrick Herron. “For many of our environmental justice communities in the Lower Mystic, the Mystic River is that important and treasured resource. Our organization works toward a vision of a waterfront and river that is clean and welcoming for all. These mitigation funds will power scientific monitoring, analysis, and investment to reduce pollution to the river–getting us closer to our vision for this river and our residents.”
“This settlement will allow us to restore eroded shorelines, reducing stormwater pollution in the Merrimack,” said Merrimack River Watershed Council Executive Director Curt Rogers. “We will also be able to work towards removing outdated dams and inadequate culverts, which can cause flooding and poor water quality, and are often harmful to fish migration and habitat. The Merrimack is the region’s largest source of drinking water, with over 700,000 people depending on it. Maintaining a healthy and clean river is a necessity.”
The Nipmuc Indian Development Corporation and Comité Diálogo Ambiental are also receiving funding for water quality improvement projects in the Blackstone River and in Jobos Bay in Puerto Rico.
CLF experts are available for further comment.