City of Hattiesburg Put on Notice for Chronic Violations of Clean Water Act
Hattiesburg, MS – Gulf Restoration Network and its members, represented by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, have put the City of Hattiesburg on notice that they intend to sue for numerous and ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act related to the Hattiesburg North and South Sewage lagoons. The Hattiesburg North lagoons are permitted to dump 4 million gallons of treated waste per day into the Bowie River and the Hattiesburg South lagoons are permitted to dump 20 million gallons of treated waste per day into the Leaf River. According to the city’s own monitoring reports, the city is chronically violating its permitted limits for pollutants at both of these facilities.
“For years, city leaders have failed to offer real solutions for dealing with these aging and outdated sewage lagoons even as they continue to pollute nearby rivers and stink up the city,” said Raleigh Hoke, Mississippi Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network. “We’re committed to making sure that the city comes up with a real plan to fix the sewage lagoons, and a concrete timeline for ensuring that local waters and communities are protected.”
On a recent canoe trip on the Leaf River, Gulf Restoration Network members discovered brown, smelly water from the South lagoons dumping directly into the river, significantly changing the character of the river downstream. On the Bowie River, near the North lagoons, Gulf Restoration Network discovered floating particles of what appeared to be human waste, and some of the canoes used had a brown “bathtub” ring around them when removed from the water.
“It’s was just plain gross,” Hoke added, “Who would want to swim, fish or boat in rivers polluted with improperly treated sewage?”
Along with losing recreational use, the wildlife and ecosystems of the rivers and downstream areas are being impacted. One of the biggest concerns is high levels of biochemical oxygen demand, which reduces oxygen levels, stressing aquatic life and potentially leading to fish kills like the one seen on the Pearl River earlier this year. Other issues include total suspended solids, which measures mineral or organic particles in the water and can impact the health of fish and other aquatic organisms, and fecal coliform, which can indicate the presence of human waste and disease causing pathogens.
“This notice is the first step in filing a citizen suit under the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit that Gulf Restoration Network can file in 60 days can ask the court for injunctive relief as well as penalties up to $37,500 per violation per day,” said Corinne Van Dalen, attorney for the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.