From the 2009 News Archive
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Environmental Law Clinic Files Intent to Sue For Toxic Pollution

The School of Law’s Environmental Law Clinic announced today that it has filed a notice of intent to file a citizen suit against Mirant MD Ash Management, LLC and Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLC Corporation for violations of the federal Clean Water Act at the Brandywine Coal Combustion Waste (CCW) Landfill in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Working as co-counsel with the Environmental Integrity Project, the Clinic has partnered with area environmental groups including Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Patuxent Riverkeeper to address the concerns about toxic pollution in Prince George’s County.

“The citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act is a critical enforcement tool which, in cases like this one, can be used to supplement federal and state actions by holding polluters accountable and protecting our valuable natural resources,” Professor Jane Barrett, Director of the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, said in a press release.

The environmental groups claim that Mirant is violating the Clean Water Act by failing to comply with the terms of its Clean Water Act permit and by illegally discharging toxic pollutants into Mataponi Creek and its tributaries from outfalls and through leaks in disposal cells. Mirant’s discharges enter Mataponi Creek, which flows through Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, a unique wildlife refuge in the Patuxent River watershed. Mirant is the target of an enforcement action by Maryland for Clean Water Act violations at its Faulkner CCW Landfill due to groundwater contamination.

Mirant has also failed to submit a required report that describes how the company will eliminate all toxic discharges at the Brandywine CCW Landfill. Mirant routinely discharges selenium above Maryland’s toxic water quality criteria for aquatic life.

According to a report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March 2009, disposal of CCW in unlined landfills and surface impoundments is hazardous to human health and poses unacceptability high risks of cancer and diseases infecting the heart, lung, liver, stomach and other organs and can poison nearby aquatic ecosystems and wildlife bioaccumulative poisons. The contamination can continue for more than 100 years after waste is dumped. The Brandywine CCW Landfill contains seven million cubic yards of CCW in multiple, unlined disposal cells. Only the most recent disposal cell, which began operation in 2007, has a liner.

“The Brandywine landfill is just one of hundreds of dangerous ash dumps threatening human health and polluting water all across the country,” Mary Anne Hitt, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign said in the same statement. “While we’re doing our best to help clean up the worst offenders, EPA needs to set strong federal standards to safeguard communities everywhere.”

Among other clients and organizations concerned about environmental problems and issues of national significance that affect the State’s environment, the Environmental Law Clinic at the School of Law helped secure passage of historic legislation after the 2009 Legislative Session, involving an important bill that will expand standing requirements to challenge certain environmental permits and Critical Areas variance decisions.

Through the School of Law’s nationally recognized Environmental Law Program, for more than 20 years the Clinic has provided pro bono legal counsel and advocacy in the areas of litigation, legislation, rulemaking, permitting, counseling, and negotiating to clients including Senator Brian Frosh, formerly Chairman of the state Senate Environment Subcommittee and now chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee; the Aberdeen Proving Ground Superfund Citizens’ Coalition with respect to environmental problems at the 79,000-acre Army base and munitions testing facility in northeastern Maryland; the Potomac Riverkeeper with respect to a broad array of water quality issues in and around the Chesapeake Bay, among others. For more information on the Clinic’s previous projects, view the Environmental Law Program’s newsletter.

Posted by Carrie Oleynik on November 19, 2009

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2015, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved