Massachusetts Files CWA Complaint Against Cargill/Salt City Due to Road Salt Storage Practices

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, acting through its attorney general, brought a Clean Water Act (CWA) complaint against Cargill, Inc. and Salt City, Inc. for discharging stormwater polluted with road salt into the Westfield River from its storage facility. The Monday filing charges the companies with two counts of CWA violations relating to their alleged discharge of industrial stormwater without a permit.

Cargill, a Delaware company, allegedly owns the Westfield, Mass. storage facility at issue in the complaint. The facility is a hub for its business, selling and distributing road salt throughout the region. Salt City manages the operation, according to the filing. The complaint centers on the companies’ practice of storing road salt “in large piles.” Massachusetts contended that employees routinely “move it around and off the Facility with heavy equipment and vehicles,” causing it to “scatter.”

Then, and in particular during rain and snowmelt events, stormwater “runs down from the Facility into catch basins on Union Street, where it is carried by Westfield’s municipal storm drain system to Powdermill Brook, a tributary of the Westfield River.” Massachusetts argued that the road salt carried into the river has negative effects on humans, who access nearby drinking water, animals including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals, and threatens the habitat of the rare freshwater mussel known as the “creeper.”

According to the complaint, the defendants lack an appropriate stormwater permit issued through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, as required for “(m)otor freight transportation and warehousing facilities that discharge industrial stormwater to waters of the United States.” The filing argued that the defendants “never applied for nor received a federal industrial stormwater discharge permit for these discharges.” The complaint also listed over two dozen specific requirements that the defendants have supposedly failed to comply with under the permitting scheme.

The violations, the plaintiff claimed, have been committed since at least August 2015. Massachusetts requests that the defendants be required to comply with the stormwater permitting program, restore the protected areas impaired by their activities, and pay civil penalties for the CWA violations. The present suit follows a case filed by an Ohio town earlier this summer for similar transgressions at a Cargill road salt storage site there.

Massachusetts is represented by the Environmental Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General.