Indiana Town, Sanitary District Sued for Illegal Discharge of Pollutants

On Thursday, the United States of America and the State of Indiana filed suit against defendant Sanitary District of Highland, Indiana, and the town of Griffith, Indiana, in the Northern District of Indiana Hammond Division.

The complaint alleges that the defendants “had numerous unauthorized and illegal discharges of sanitary sewage from their sanitary sewer collection systems to navigable waters,” in violation of multiple state codes. The defendants also allegedly failed to comply with orders from the EPA relating to the Clean Water Act. The plaintiffs are acting on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Clean Water Act (CWA) aims to restore and maintain the waters of the United States in a biological, physical, and chemical sense. The CWA prohibits the discharge of any unauthorized pollutants into the waters it protects. Discharge of pollutants is defined by the Clean Water Act as “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.”

The EPA Administrator is authorized to issue orders requiring people to comply with the CWA if they are found to be in violation of the act. The EPA can also pursue civil action for relief, which may include civil penalties.

Defendant Highland “owns and operates a sanitary sewer collection system that conveys sewage from the Town of Highland, Indiana to the Hammond Sanitary District’s wastewater collection system and wastewater treatment plant for the treatment.”

Since defendant Highland does not possess an NPDES permit allowing them to legally discharge pollutants under the CWA, they cannot discharge any pollutants in their operations. However, when the defendant’s facilities get overloaded, the plaintiffs explain that the system will discharge untreated sewage into the Little Calumet River.

Defendant Griffith also owns and operate a sanitary sewer collection system. When their system gets overloaded, they pump untreated wastewater to a wetland that flows into the Little Calumet River.

The EPA issued orders to each of the defendants requiring them to devise plans that would effectively stop the violations. Despite formulating plans, the defendants never implemented the plans to correct the problem. Each defendant remains in violation of the CWA.

The complaint cites claims for the illegal discharge of untreated wastewater by each defendant and violations of their respective EPA orders. The plaintiffs are seeking injunctions preventing further misconduct, civil penalties, attorney’s fees, and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.