A federal court in Pennsylvania has found GenOn Management Co. liable under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for violating its permit levels for the discharge of heavy metals, including iron, aluminum, manganese, boron, and selenium, into the Conemaugh River at its generating station in West Wheatfield Township, Pennsylvania. PennEnvironment v. GenOn Ne. Mgmt. Co., No. 07-475 (W.D. Pa. 3/21/11).
Plaintiffs sued under the CWA citizen-suit provision and alleged that the violations were established by defendant’s own monitoring system. Plaintiffs submitted several EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports demonstrating the negative effects of heavy metal toxicity on wildlife when found in high concentrations. Defendant did not dispute that it was discharging heavy metals into the river, or that the discharges were in excess of permit levels, or even that plaintiffs had been damaged by pollutants in the river. The court found that defendant violated its permit on 8,684 days and was therefore liable for civil penalties under the CWA. Although the court has yet to set the amount of penalties, the maximum civil penalty would exceed $300 million. See Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 23, 2011.