Facilities in PA rank second highest in nation for exceeding water pollution standards

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Graterford Prison, Eastman Chemical Resins and American Refining Group top state for exceeding permits

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

[Pennsylvania]– Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Pennsylvania’s waterways 633 times over 21 months, placing Pennsylvania second in the nation for violating their clean water permits,  The study also shows that facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution.  

The new study, entitled Troubled Waters: Industrial Pollution Still Threatens America’s Waterways, comes as the Trump administration tries to further weaken clean water protections and slash funding for monitoring and enforcement.

“Decades after the Clean Water Act was signed into law, nearly 20,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania are still considered unsafe for fishing and swimming,” said Stephanie Wein, the Clean Water Advocate at PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, “And instead of ratcheting pollution down to zero, facilities are still dumping chemicals and other pollutants into our waters beyond the legal limits set to protect health and the environment.”

“The fact that Pennsylvania is second in the nation for the number of violations of Clean Water Act permits by industrial polluters is disturbing,” said State Representative Donna Bullock. “For far too long, big corporations placed profits over the health and welfare of people by cutting corners and viewing violations as a cost of business.  I join PennEnvironment today to say “no more.” Every community, regardless of its size and economic standing, deserves access to safe water without the fear of pollution from our industrial neighbors.”

“As the Trump Administration moves to weaken our clean water protections and has proposed slashing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding for enforcement, local leaders must stand up and say no,” said Pittsburgh City Councilwoman-elect Erika Strassburger. “We must use our platforms to speak out and ensure that our rivers are safe and clean now, and for generations to come.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017,nd the Frontier Group found that a number of major industrial facilities continue to dump pollution in excess of their permit levels, ending up in the Delaware River.  This includes:

  • Graterford State Correctional Institution in Montgomery County exceeded its pollution permit for waste 80 times, releasing this waste into the Perkiomen Creek (which flows into the Schuylkill), seven of those times exceeding its permit by 500%.

  • Eastman Chemical Resins, Inc., located along the Monongahela River in Allegheny County, upriver from Pittsburgh, exceeded its permitted pollution limits on 72 occasions. 10 of those occasions, they poured more than 500% of their permitted limits for zinc, aluminum, nitrites, styrene, and xylene into the Monongahela

  • American Refining Group, located in McKean County, exceeded its permits on 36 occasions, releasing fecal coliform and assorted hydrocarbons into the Tunungwant Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny River.

  • Trainer Refinery in Delaware County, owned by a subsidiary of Delta Airlines, exceeded its pollution permit 34 times, releasing waste and thermal pollution into Stoney Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River.

  • P. H. Glatfelter’s paper facility in York County exceeded its permit 20 times, expelling waste and thermal pollution into the Codorus Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River

  • U.S. Steel Facility in Bucks County exceeded its pollution permit 20 times, dumping its pollution into the nearby Delaware River.

“It’s outrageous that the facility reporting the most exceedances – Graterford – isn’t a private manufacturer or a refinery, but a state facility that’s in essence owned and operated by the Pennsylvania government on behalf of the taxpayers and residents of the Commonwealth,” said Wein, “It’s disappointing that a state facility is a leader is this dubious category.”

Peter Hughes, Valley Forge Chapter President of Trout Unlimited, added “As fishermen, we know, when we catch deformed fish, some missing eyes, and others with large cancerous growths where fins should be, that industrial polluters are in flagrant violation of the Clean Water Act and regulatory agencies are doing nothing to stop them.”

“Although the polluters mentioned in Penn Environment’s report may not be literally in our backyard, they are upstream and should be held accountable,” said Allegheny County Councilwoman Anita Prizio.  “Clearly, it is much cheaper to prevent pollution than clean up after the fact.”

The report also shows that polluters rarely face penalties, and recommends several measures to ensure stronger enforcement of, and protection for, clean water. Unfortunately, decision makers in Washington could soon make the pattern of pollution worse.  

“The Clean Water Act does not work if facilities that dump pollution into our waterways above permitted levels are not held accountable for breaking the law,” said Lisa Hallowell, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “Pennsylvanians have a right to clean water. The Trump EPA needs to spend less time rolling back environmental rules and more time helping DEP enforce the laws on the books against polluters.”


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PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center works to protect clean water, clean air, and open spaces.  We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. To learn more about this or our other issues, visit our website at www.PennEnvironment.org/center.