Jacksonville Environmental Group Sues Metal Recycling Center for CWA Violations

St. Johns Riverkeeper Inc. filed suit on Wednesday against Jacksonville Metal Recycling Inc. (JMRI) over stormwater discharges it claims violate provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The citizen enforcement complaint asserts that runoff from the facility threatens the group members’ ability to enjoy the St. Johns River watershed as well as the health of the area itself.

The Middle District of Florida lawsuit explains that Riverkeeper is a Florida public benefit company. It filed the instant action after serving notice on JMRI and state and federal agencies regarding the scrap metal recycling plant’s alleged violations, the filing states. Absent government intervention, the civilian plaintiff claims that it took action to address JMRI’s stormwater pollution which “poses a health risk to humans, harms marine life, closes beaches, contaminates the ocean, and harms the environment.”

The lawsuit also explains that metal recycling facilities are a major source of stormwater contamination, especially those that store and process materials outside as JMRI does. Scrap metals in various stages of corrosion may release a variety of harmful substances, including heavy metals, fuel, oil, lubricants and polychlorinated biphenyls, the filing notes.

Indeed, JMRI’s stormwater samples allegedly revealed numerous exceedances of cut-off concentrations for pollutants of concern. Aluminum, lead, iron, and zinc concentrations exceeded the maximum levels according to samples collected in 2013 and 2015, and in some cases in nearly half of the samples taken, the suit claims.

In addition, the plaintiff asserts that JMRI’s state and NPDES permit expired in November 2017 and has not since been renewed. The complaint sets forth three claims for relief under the CWA: discharging without authorization, failure to obtain coverage under the NPDES permit system, and failure to comply with the conditions of an individual permit.

The complaint asks that the court assess civil penalties, enjoin the defendants from future violations, and award the plaintiff its attorneys’ fees and costs. St. Johns Riverkeeper is represented by The Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida Inc. and Super Law Group LLC.