Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 18, 2018
Posted on: http://www.advisen.com
PPG Industries Inc. is solely liable for chemicals it has allowed to spill into the Allegheny River over the last several decades, a federal judge ruled.
A six-year-old lawsuit that two environmental groups filed against PPG over chemical emissions at its former Ford City glass facility concluded Friday.
Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania said ongoing pollution at the waste site, off Route 128 in Cadogan and North Buffalo townships, “may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment,” a violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Mitchell further said PPG’s claim that another business, plumbing ware manufacturer Eljer Inc., was partially to blame for the toxins found in the area didn’t hold water because that business was permitted by the state to produce emissions of a certain kind, and PPG failed to demonstrate the company contributed to the problem.
PPG spokesman Mark Silvey said in a statement that Mitchell’s decision in no way affects the company’s established commitment to working with the state Department of Environmental Protection to clean up their former glass facility.
“Over the last several years, PPG has implemented remedial measures approved by DEP that ensure that there is no adverse impact to the Allegheny River and PPG remains committed to continuing to work constructively with DEP in this matter if it is determined that additional measures are necessary,” he said.
PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club filed the lawsuit on Jan. 2, 2012, alleging that PPG violated the federal Clean Water Act and the state Clean Streams Law with unpermitted and untreated discharge of pollutants into the Allegheny River.
According to court documents, the waste site is discharging arsenic, chromium, lead, manganese, copper, zinc, mercury and other toxins into the river and a local stream, Glade Run.
PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur, in a telephone interview Tuesday, described a pollution problem that started decades ago.
According to Masur and the lawsuit, PPG discarded a slurry used in glass polishing from about 1950 to 1970 from its bustling glass plant in Ford City into waste lagoons covering almost 77 acres on company-owned land across the river.
PPG sent the slurry waste from the plant via a pipe system under the Allegheny River to several lagoons on the Cadogan and North Buffalo site, which the company formerly had used as a sandstone quarry, according to the court papers.
In the same area, the company deposited about 20 million cubic feet of solid waste from the 1920s to the 1970s, according to the complaint.
As the lagoons filled, Masur said, PPG would add more and more soil to the walls to build them higher, until some eventually towered over 100 feet tall.
As the years wore on, Masur said, the chemicals in the slurry began to seep through the lagoon walls, eventually finding their way into the Allegheny River, flowing down to the city of Pittsburgh and on into the Ohio River.
The company sold the waste site, for $1, to Ford City borough in 1972. Masur said, however, that the law is structured in such a way that PPG still can be held responsible for past emissions at the site.
That site is now home to a park and ballfields.
As the property owner, Ford City borough is a defendant in the case but was not held liable by Mitchell.
A spokesman for DEP did not return a request for comment.
Masur said that the next step will mean more legal work.
“Next step is to ask the court to order PPG to clean up the contamination and clean up this toxic water and assess penalties for years of contamination and dragging their feet,” he said.