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U.S. Appeals Court Upholds North East Borough’s Wastewater "Pretreatment" Program
Release Date: 9/19/2002
Contact Information: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567
Contact: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567
PHILADELPHIA – A federal appeals court has upheld actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Borough of North East, Pa., to protect a small creek and Lake Erie from industrial wastewater pollution.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has rejected a challenge by Welch Foods, Inc. to “pretreatment” requirements that apply to Welch Foods and other industrial users of the borough’s wastewater treatment facilities. These facilities discharge treated wastewater into the Sixteen Mile Creek, a tributary of Lake Erie.
Welch Foods’ fruit processing plants discharge wastewater to the borough’s plants. This discharge creates solid waste and sludge, due to the volume of organic matter in the wastewater. In the mid-1990s, this discharge contributed to violations of pollution limits in the borough’s state-issued Clean Water Act permit, including the discharge of untreated sludge and wastewater to the Sixteen Mile Creek.
In 1998, at the direction of EPA and Pennsylvania DEP, North East Borough adopted a “pretreatment” program to require Welch Foods and other industrial users to limit the level of pollutants discharged into the plant. This EPA-approved program was included in a revised Clean Water Act permit that DEP issued to the borough.
Welch Foods challenged North East’s pretreatment program, suing the borough, DEP, and EPA in federal and state lawsuits, which were combined in the federal district court in Pittsburgh. The district court upheld the pretreatment program, and affirmed EPA’s decision approving the need for and content of the program.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court also rejected the appeal from Welch Foods. The court concluded that EPA properly determined that the pretreatment program would reduce interference with plant operations, and avoid permit violations.
The court’s decision in this case is available at http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/recentop/week/013456u.pdf