CATSKILL — An environmental group says a cement plant landfill near the Catskill Mountains is dumping pollutants as caustic as household bleach into wetlands that feed the Hudson River and the contaminants are endangering the environment and human health.
Riverkeeper plans to sue Lehigh Cement over dumping
TARRYTOWN – The environmental protection organization Riverkeeper on Thursday served notice of its intent to sue the Lehigh Cement Co. for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act at Lehigh’s Catskill facility
Riverkeeper filed notice Thursday that it intends to sue plant owner Lehigh Cement Co. and seek penalties that can top $32,000 per day for each offense. The notice is the first step toward a lawsuit under federal environmental laws.
Allentown, Pa.-based Lehigh Cement hasn’t responded to telephone and e-mail messages.
The “Notice of Intent to Sue” filed by Riverkeeper is the first step in initiating a citizen lawsuit under the two federal acts. After the required 60-day and 90-day waiting periods under the acts, Riverkeeper will file a lawsuit in federal court, it said.
Riverkeeper said its frequent Hudson River patrols by boat and helicopter revealed evidence of illegal dumping of landfill leachate by Lehigh into wetlands and the Hudson River. Leachate from Lehigh’s landfill flows directly into unnaturally golden-bronze colored wetland ponds which are adjacent and hydrologically connected to the Hudson, Riverkeeper said.
Riverkeeper said the leachate being discharged from Lehigh’s landfill is highly alkaline with a pH reading of 12.3, which approaches the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of corrosivity for hazardous waste. These leachate discharges are caused by water that percolates through the cement kiln dust contained in the landfill, picking up contaminants before collecting at the landfill’s base and flowing into the wetlands, the group said.
Riverkeeper alleges the discharges are occurring without a state Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and violate the two federal acts and state solid waste regulations.
Riverkeeper’s “Notice of Intent to Sue” alleges Lehigh’s leachate discharges are not permitted under the Clean Water Act and create an imminent and substantial danger to health and the environment under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.