Clean Water Act fights pollution

Published 5:31 pm Monday, January 16, 2023

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Mike Mullen, Alabama Riverkeeper said the Clean Water Act (CWA), almost certainly the best legislation ever passed to allow citizens to bring about corrective action of law breaking when government fails to do so, creates a process by which citizens or citizen groups can go about correcting water pollution.

Mullen said, when a holder of an NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permit) violates that permit a citizen or a group representing citizens can file a citizen suit to compel compliance with the permit. The citizen suit provisions of the CWA require the aggrieved citizen or citizens to give a 60-day notice to the responsible parties. I

In this case responsible parties are the polluter, City of Samson, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) that issues the permit, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) that oversees execution of the CWA by ADEM, Mullen said.

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“The Notice of Intent to sue (NOIS) has been sent to the City of Samson, ADEM and the USEPA,” Mullen said. “Under the CWA the permit holder has 60 days to return the facility in violation to compliance or one or both of the other parties to take action to return the facility to compliance. In the case of the City of Samson wastewater lagoon there were nearly 2000 violations between March of 2018 and September of 2022.”

These violations occurred after Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper filed an NOIS in August 2017 and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) filed suit later the same month. Subsequently, in September 2017 the State of Alabama, ADEM and the Town of Samson entered into a consent agreement under which full permit compliance was to be achieved by September 2019. That did not happen and an ADEM and Town of Samson motion on August 2020 to extend the compliance deadline until December 2021 was approved by the Circuit Court