Deal Includes $1 Million For Stream Remediation Projects in Pennsylvania
For Immediate Release July 21, 2022
Ted Evgeniadis, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, (717) 478-1780 or email@example.com
Jim Hecker, Environmental Enforcement Director – Public Justice, (202) 861-5225 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wrightsville, PA – The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association have entered into a consent decree to settle a federal lawsuit under the Clean Water Act against Keystone Protein Company. The suit has been pending since 2019 before U.S. District Judge Jennifer P. Wilson in Harrisburg, PA.
Keystone Protein operates a poultry rendering plant in Fredericksburg, PA that discharges wastewater into a tributary of the Susquehanna River. The suit alleged that beginning in 2014 Keystone discharged excessive amounts of total nitrogen in violation of the limits in its Clean Water Act permit. The violations continued until 2020, when Keystone upgraded its wastewater treatment facility at the rendering plant. Keystone discharged more than 180,000 pounds of nitrogen illegally during this period.
Keystone’s violations of its permit were of great concern to the Riverkeeper because the Susquehanna River watershed contributes approximately 46% of the total nitrogen load flowing to the Chesapeake Bay. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed most of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters as impaired because of excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Those pollutants cause algal blooms that consume oxygen and create “dead zones” where fish and shellfish cannot survive, block sunlight that is needed for underwater grasses, and smother aquatic life below.
In 2010, the EPA set limits on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment allocations for the Bay and the streams that flow into it, including the Susquehanna River watershed. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has classified Keystone Protein as a significant discharger of nitrogen to the Chesapeake Bay.
In February 2022, Judge Wilson granted summary judgment in favor of the Riverkeeper on Keystone Protein’s liability for its permit violations, leaving the amount of the penalty under the Clean Water Act as the only issue left to be decided by the Court. The Riverkeeper and Keystone Protein resolved all issues with the consent decree entered by the Court on July 21, 2022.
The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association are pleased that Keystone Protein Co. has agreed to a settlement that includes $1 million of funding for restoration and remediation of Pennsylvania streams, as follows:
- $238,800 to the Doc Fritchey Chapter of Trout Unlimited for the full cost of the Hammer Creek Headwaters Alternate Restoration Plan.
- $446,300 to the Watershed Alliance of York for the partial cost of the Muddy Creek Watershed Project.
- $75,000 to the Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County for the full cost of the Simeon Esh Project.
- $162,500 to the Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County for one half of the cost of the Donegal Creek Project (the other half will be grant-funded).
- $77,400 to Dickinson College’s Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) to support community monitoring of water quality and stream health in the Lower Susquehanna River watershed.
Under the consent decree, Keystone Protein will also pay the attorney’s fees of the Riverkeeper’s attorneys in the suit, James Hecker at Public Justice in Washington DC and the law firm of Steve Harvey Law in Philadelphia.
In connection with the settlement, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and partners released the following statements:
“Excess nitrogen is a huge problem for waterways in Pennsylvania that flow into the Chesapeake Bay,” said Ted Evgeniadis, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “The EPA took a big step in the right direction by setting pollution limits in 2010 and technology-based limits for rendering plants in 2004. I am very pleased to note that the rendering plant in this lawsuit finally came into compliance with those limits in 2020. I am satisfied that $1 million Keystone Protein is paying as part of the consent decree will fund important stream restoration projects.”
“2022 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, and this consent decree is a great way to mark the occasion. Water is life,” added Evgeniadis. “Our waterways need less pollution and more remediation.”
“More citizens should be aware of the important role played by Riverkeepers and other environmental organizations that bring lawsuits under federal statutes such as the Clean Water Act,” said Steve Harvey, who served as co-lead counsel for the Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “Organizations like the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association shoulder the burden of being plaintiffs and receive nothing back other than the satisfaction of helping to protect the environment, here by securing $1 million in environmental restoration funding for various streams and waterways in Pennsylvania.”
“Trout Unlimited, Doc Fritchey Chapter is pleased to be a partner with the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, and excited to be the recipient of funds for a major stream restoration project on a tributary of the Hammer Creek Watershed,” said Russell Collins, President of the Chapter. “The project will restore 2,566 linear feet on the Moses Fisher Farm near Schaefferstown, PA. This project is one of several projects being worked on by our Chapter. Being a part of this process is a big boost to our conservation efforts in Lebanon County.”
“This funding will allow the Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County to complete two stream restoration projects that have been on the books for some time,” said Matthew Kofroth, Watershed Specialist of the Lancaster County Conservation District. “These funds will allow the large-scale Simeon Esh stream project (3,000 linear ft.) along the Conowingo Creek to be completed which also includes on farm best management practices. The funds provided for the Donegal Creek project will allow for more stream frontage to be worked on thus more area of improved water quality in this impaired watershed. Both projects will have long lasting conservation and water quality impacts for the watershed, county, and the overall Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”
“The Watershed Alliance of York is looking forward to the construction of this project that will not only address major resource concerns on the property, but also help York County meet the goals outlined in our Countywide Action Plan,” said Emily Neideigh, Watershed Specialist of York County Conservation District.
“ALLARM is excited to work with the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association and local organizations on supporting stream restoration initiatives and assessment,” said Julie Vastine, Director of Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM). “It is thrilling to launch our new Restoration Visual Assessment Protocol at sites where streams are being restored in the Lower Susquehanna watershed through this project.”
“The environmental projects funded by the decree show that citizen suits like this one are an important enforcement and remedial tool when governments fail to enforce the law,” said Jim Hecker, Director of Public Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Project.
The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is a licensed Waterkeeper organization dedicated to improving the ecological health of the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed and the Chesapeake Bay. The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper patrols the river for illegal pollution, and when necessary, enforces environmental laws to protect the river and communities that depend on it.
Public Justice (originally Trial Lawyers for Public Justice) is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that takes on purveyors of corporate corruption, sexual abusers and harassers, and polluters who ravage the environment.