Washington State Non-Profit Sues Chemical Manufacturer Over NPDES Permit Exceedances

Columbia Riverkeeper has filed a complaint in the Western District of Washington for defendant Kemira Chemicals, Inc.’s (Kemira) alleged violations of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits authorizing the discharge of pollutants from its Washougal, Washington, chemical manufacturing facility. According to a water sample submitted by Kemira to the state oversight authority from 2015 to 2020, it discharged excessive levels of zinc and copper, and exceeded turbidity levels in violation of its NPDES permits and the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The Dec. 31, 2020, complaint states that the plaintiff organization is a Washington state non-profit with more than 16,000 members founded to restore and protect the Columbia River, a tributary of the Pacific Ocean. Reportedly,the non-profit’s members use the Columbia River Basin for fishing, swimming, hiking, walking, photography, boating, and observing wildlife, among other things.

The plaintiff explains that it has “serious concerns” about the defendant chemical company’s alleged and repeated violations of its NPDES permits. It accuses Kemira of degrading water quality in the Columbia River Basin with its illegal industrial stormwater discharges.

The filing claims that Kemira has violated the terms of two of its NPDES general permits not only through excessive discharges, but also through other failings. Purportedly, and pursuant to the permits, Kemira was supposed to develop and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP), but the plaintiff argues that its plan falls short for a number of reasons. In addition, the company was also meant to “timely complete adaptive management, to timely submit complete and accurate reports, and to timely provide access to or a copy of the facility’s SWPPP upon request from Columbia Riverkeeper.”

The complaint alleges that Kemira’s violations were avoidable had it been vigilant in facility operations and maintenance oversight. The plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, the imposition of civil penalties, and an award of its costs.

Columbia Riverkeeper is represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen PLLC and its own counsel.