Tennessee City Accused of Clean Water Act Violations

Tennessee Riverkeeper, a Tennessee nonprofit seeking to protect the cleanliness of the state’s waterways, brought a legal action against an alleged perpetrator of polluted sewer-water discharges, the city of Manchester, Tenn.’s official sewage plant on Thursday in the Eastern District of Tennessee. The plaintiff proffered that the release violated the Clean Water Act (CWA), thus mandating an injunction to prevent any further release of pollutants via the sewer-water sledge and the levying of civil penalties.

In the associated complaint, Riverkeeper accused the city of Manchester of creating an amount of pollutants in the facilities’ water discharges that stood to diminish aquatic life and ecosystems in the Tennessee and Duck Rivers. The plaintiff also avowed that an additional result of the pollution is that all recreational enjoyment of the rivers functioned in a limited capacity since 2015.  

The CWA prohibits the release of water-based pollutants absent the granting of a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Riverkeeper claimed that while the defendant possessed such a permit (and even drafted associated local regulations), the sewage plant regularly violated the city’s own rules. According to the plaintiff, the permit required the defendant to design wastewater pipes and tunnels in a fashion guaranteeing no overflow of untreated sewage output into the rivers. Additionally, the permit required the city to impose a moratorium on any new sewer connections upstream of places in the rivers experiencing more than five overflows of pollutants via sewage leaks in a calendar year.  

The plaintiff averred that Manchester City met neither of the pollutant permit’s requirements. According to Riverkeeper, between 2015-2019, the defendant’s sewage plant allowed more than 200 overflows of sewage-water pollutants into both rivers without a single moratorium period. Additionally, in the same time span, Manchester allegedly released over 33 million gallons of untreated sewage into Tennessee waterways.

Riverkeeper sought an injunction mandating any actions necessary to stop future pollution and to clean-up previous waterway damage. The plaintiff further requested civil penalties of up to $37,500 for each day the defendant violated the CWA. Riverkeeper is represented by Alexander Law.