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Federal lawsuit filed against Luke mill owners Verso

May 28th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles Thursday announced the filing of a suit in federal court against the owners of the Luke Paper Mill for seepages into the North Branch Potomac River that threaten public health and the environment. A black substance that may include contaminants from caustic and corrosive “pulping liquor,” coal ash or other undiscovered sources continues to seep from a riverbank at the paper mill site and into the river. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Office of the Attorney General filed a complaint under federal hazardous waste law seeking orders requiring the mill owners,  the Verso Corporation, to stop the discharges and remediate any harm caused by them.  The complaint also seeks orders requiring Verso to post signs warning of health risks and to pay civil penalties. Frosh, in a prepared state, said that “Verso continues to contaminate the Potomac River with toxic pulping liquor.  This is violative of Maryland’s environmental laws, devastating for water quality and harmful to fish and wildlife…and the state is asking the court to force Verso to stop its discharges of pulping liquor, clean up its discharges, and provide the public with the required health notices.”

In December, Attorney General Frosh and MDE filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Allegany County alleging multiple violations of state environmental laws.  In February, MDE provided a notice of  intent to sue in federal court to address, in addition to water pollution, a full range of potential impacts including any contamination of the land, under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Thursday’s complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for Maryland in conjunction with a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed in March in that court by Potomac Riverkeepers Inc. on similar issues.  In moving to intervene in that case, Maryland states that the state’s role as owner of the river and MDE’s role as Maryland’s environmental regulator show that no party in the Riverkeepers’ action can adequately represent the state’s interest in the litigation.   The complaint seeks an order requiring Verso to post warning signs.

2 comments on this post.
  1. mac:

    This is just the very beginning of a saga that will continue for years, all the while the same pollutants will continue to seep into the Potomac. Hearings, briefs, continuations, claims and counter claims. Verso attorneys will get rich while State attorneys make grim faces before the news cameras.
    Eventually, somewhere farther down the road, Verso will accept a judgement, without admitting complicity or guilt, and will pay a fine to end what they will call unneeded and unjust interference in American free enterprise.

  2. Jay:

    I drove past the mill the other day. It’s already starting to deteriorate and look dilapidated. Having grown up in the Tri-Towns it is heart breaking to see what has happened to that once vibrant area. The grim reality is that Cumberland is really not that far behind.

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