PENNSYLVANIA: Copper Smelter Fined Again for Polluting Ohio River

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, August 4, 2021 (ENS) – Hussey Copper, manufacturer of copper for electric power lines and copper-nickel alloys for desalination plants, is being hit with a second big fine for releasing toxics into local waterways.

Ordered last year to pay a $550,000 criminal fine for polluting the Ohio River at its Leetsdale smelting operation, Hussey today agreed to settle with state and federal authorities in a civil lawsuit, also over alleged violations of clean water law at the Leetsdale smelter in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Leetsdale, a borough of some 1,200 people on the Ohio River 15 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, once had an industrial manufacturing base, with a Bethlehem Steel mill that closed in the late 1970s. Today, residents and visitors enjoy boating, go-karting, arcade games, a museum, an art center, theater, concerts and shops.

“Today’s settlement improves water quality for the citizens of Leetsdale and surrounding communities,” said Larry Starfield, acting assistant administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This agreement requires Hussey to address their existing environmental violations, as well as implement plans to address any future noncompliance.”

Hussey has agreed to pay an $861,500 fine, perform a comprehensive environmental audit, and implement an upgraded environmental management system to resolve the state and federal allegations in the civil case.

The civil complaint, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, alleges violations of the federal Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law that threaten to degrade receiving streams and impact public health and harm aquatic life.

These include chronic exceedances of effluent limits in the facility’s state-issued Clean Water Act permit limiting oil sheens and discharges of copper, chromium, nickel, oil and grease, lead, pH, total suspended solids and zinc.

“This settlement reaffirms that industrial polluters must do the necessary work to ensure that their operations are not causing harm to our nation’s waterways,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean Williams for the U.S. Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“We are happy to have partnered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to ensure the continued protection of the Ohio River,” she said.

Stephen Kaufman, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said, “This agreement holds Hussey Copper accountable for the impact their actions have had on the health of the Ohio River. We will continue to work with our partners to enforce the laws enacted to protect our region’s abundant natural resources.”

In December 2020, U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV ordered Hussey Copper to pay a criminal fine of $550,000 and to serve three years’ probation after the company pled guilty to three felony Clean Water Act charges. The case involved a multi-year pattern of Hussey submitting false discharge monitoring reports to conceal 140 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit violations, discharges of oil into the Ohio River, and the failure to report those oil discharges to the federal government.

Featured image: Metal worker at Hussey Copper melts down copper, August 8, 2015, Leetsdale, Pennsylvania (Photo courtesy Patriarch Partners)

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