Gulf Restoration Network Sues City of Hattiesburg for Polluting Rivers

Poorly treated sewage from the South Lagoons pouring into the Leaf River.Gulf Restoration Network and its members, represented by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, filed suit Friday March 2, 2012 against the city of Hattiesburg over numerous and ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act related to Hattiesburg’s North and South Sewage lagoons. The city’s sewage treatment plant is failing to properly process the sewage before releasing it into the Leaf and Bowie Rivers, where the pollution harms the ecosystem and ruins recreational activity. According to the city’s own discharge monitoring reports, the city is chronically violating its permitted limits for pollutants at both of these facilities.The city has consistently failed to live up to their obligations to keep Hattiesburg’s waters clean, and protect the community from pollution. This suit will help ensure that the city stops stalling, and comes up with a real plan and concrete timeline for fixing the sewage lagoons.The city of Hattiesburg recently announced an agreement with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) over pollution from the lagoons, but this agreement actually resulted in less stringent pollution protections for the Leaf and Bowie Rivers and delayed any major action until 2017.It’s absolutely unacceptable that MDEQ has given the city a blank check to keep on polluting to their heart’s content for the next five years. 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.”The goal of this litigation is not to just enforce ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act, but also to compel Hattiesburg to comply with its permits by doing what is necessary to upgrade its sewage treatment system. This would benefit not only GRN members, but also others who recreate on the Leaf and Bowie Rivers,” said Corinne Van Dalen, attorney at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.To view GRN’s Complaint against the city of Hattiesburg, click here.Raleigh Hoke is GRN’s Mississippi Organizer.

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