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Legal Action Aims to Stop Tons of Pollution from Filtration Plant

WaterpollutionCHESAPEAKEBAYPROGRAMThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its allies are taking legal action to stop pollution from a water filtration plant in Montgomery County, Maryland, that has released more than 27 million pounds of sediment and nearly 1.4 million pounds of aluminum into the Potomac River over the last four years.

Yesterday, CBF and the Environmental Integrity Project, on behalf of the Potomac Riverkeeper, filed a notice of intent to sue the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) for the water pollution violations at the Potomac Water Filtration Plant in Seneca, Maryland.

The plant treats drinking water for residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. But it also discharges about eight million gallons of wastewater per day into the Potomac River just upstream from the Great Falls National Park.  The plant’s permit expired 11 years ago, but it continues to release millions of gallons of sediment pollution and aluminum directly into the river instead of treating the waste or disposing of the waste properly offsite.

“The sediment being discharged, in violation of permit limits, is damaging the health of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay,” said Christine Tramontana, CBF Litigation Counsel. “The goal of this action is to push WSSC to upgrade its facility, stop unpermitted discharges, and ensure accurate monitoring."

 Eric Schaefer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said:  “Plant records indicate that over the past four years, the Potomac River filtration plant has discharged enough sediment and aluminum into the river below Seneca to fill more than 1,400 ten ton dump trucks.”

He added that WSSC should be able to deliver drinking water to local residents without “clouding the Potomac with mud and metals.”

To read the entire notice, click here.

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

 (Photo at top of generic water pollution, not from the WSSC plant, from the Chesapeake Bay Program.) 


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You have shown the extent of which you will take to identify and protect our waters. Question: why does the EPA not monitor there discharge permits? Not only release testing, but renewals?????

Should this example of CBF action encourage others to report illicit discharges and or permit violations to you?

lower gunpowder river keeper


Maryland is authorized by EPA to issue NPDES permits under the Clean Water Act. EPA retains oversight authority over permitting. Although EPA and Maryland both have enforcement authority over permitting violations, Maryland is primarily responsible for issuing the permits and monitoring permit compliance.

It is unclear why the Potomac Water Filtration Plant’s permit has been administratively continued for so long and permit limits have not been enforced.

If any member of the general public finds that a facility is violating its NPDES permit, please notify CBF. The general public can enforce permit conditions under the Clean Water Act and the facility monitoring reports are public documents.

Thanks for your questions!

Big government water and sewer systems are failures that are too big to fix overnight. You can't just shut the water off to thousands of customers, many of which were forced off of their wells and onto the big government's pipes. We are not moving in the right direction when we have politicians that think the fix is more big government. As said elsewhere on this blog "All problems and fixes are local". Well and septic may not be viable everywhere but we shouldn't be discouraging on-site systems that are much more ecologically sound than big government's failures. I spent many years in the Sewerage business and I've seen millions upon millions of gallons of raw sewage, used syringes, medical waste, etc overflow into our waters. I never saw anything more than a seep from even the worst faiing septic systems. Certainly no used syringes.

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