USA and Alabama File CWA Complaint Against Wood-Based Panel Manufacturer

On Monday in the Northern District of Alabama, the United States and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) filed suit against Kronospan, LLC alleging that it illegally discharged pollutants from its Alabama facility. The Clean Water Act (CWA) complaint seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties.

Kronospan reportedly owns and operates a facility in Eastaboga, Ala., which “manufactures reconstituted wood products, and is an integrated pulp and fiberboard mill.” The complaint claims that the defendant discharged untreated wastewater into the Oxford Water Works and Sewer Board’s (OWSB) publicly owned treatment works (POTW). OWSB’s wastewater treatment plant, part of the POTW, discharges treated water into Choccolocco Creek, a source of the Coosa River, the complaint explains.

According to the filing, in April 2008, OWSB observed that discharge from Kronospan’s facility was interfering with the operation of its POTW. The pollutants in the facility’s discharge had high temperatures, low pH values, very high levels of total suspended solids, excessive wood chips, high levels of formaldehyde, and high biochemical oxygen demand. OWSB subsequently contacted ADEM who conducted inspections and made numerous repairs to the system based on the problems experienced due to Kronospan’s noncompliant discharge.

In 2010, Kronospan reportedly and illegally began “diluting its discharge with potable water in an attempt to control the problems at the OWSB POTW.” In 2010 and 2011, ADEM conducted more visits to OWSB’s POTW and noted several problems based on the defendant’s supposedly illegal discharges, including solid discharges, water discoloration, elevated pollutant levels, and a manhole overflowing with foam.

In 2012, after U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) visits to the site, ADEM required the defendant to comply with certain orders, including the installation and use of pre-treatment equipment. In the following years, the defendant engaged with the state and federal agencies in an attempt to resolve the issues. Yet, the complaint avers that Kronospan still violated the law through a number of acts and omissions.

The complaint details how OWSB accrued massive bills in an attempt to mitigate the issues it was experiencing at the POTW, as a result of Kronospan’s noncompliance. Between July 2012 and July 2017, the complaint claims, Kronospan “amassed over 5,000 additional CWA violations, including at least 1,800 effluent limitation and reporting and monitoring violations alone.”

The complaint alleges ten CWA violations, including illegal discharge, discharge causing and/or contributing to interference at a POTW, failure to monitor, failure to report, and one count for failure to comply with an EPA-issued administrative order. The plaintiffs seek permanent injunctive relief and ask the court to assess civil penalties on a per violation per day basis.