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Frosh Sues Verso Over Leak

December 16th, 2019 by WCBC Radio

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Allegany County against Verso Luke, LLC and its parent company, Verso Corporation (Verso) for unlawful pollution discharges into the North Branch of the Potomac River.

The suit seeks an order requiring Verso to stop discharging pollution into Maryland waters, post signs warning of the risks of exposure to the discharge, remediate any harm caused by the unlawful discharges, and pay appropriate civil penalties for past and ongoing violations of Maryland’s environmental laws. Verso owns the Luke Paper Mill, located in Luke, Maryland, and Beryl, West Virginia, with facilities spanning the North Branch of the Potomac River. Paper products were manufactured at the mill until it closed in June 2019.

In April 2019, a fisherman observed and reported that “pure black waste” was entering the North Branch of the Potomac River near the Luke Paper Mill. An inspection of the site found black liquid seeping from the southern riverbank into the river. The black liquid appeared to be “pulping liquor,” a corrosive and caustic substance created, and also sometimes re-used, during the paper-making process. Samples of the black liquid revealed elevated pH and low dissolved oxygen concentrations, as well as high sulfur and sodium content. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) directed Verso to determine the source of the unauthorized discharge, to sample and test the waters, to take steps to contain and remove the discharge, and to submit a follow up report with investigation findings. In an effort to contain the discharge, Verso installed sump pumps and collected some of the black liquid as it seeped from the riverbank. MDE received additional complaints of black discharge into the river during the summer and fall of 2019. During follow up inspections, an MDE inspector again observed black discharge along the riverbed and in the river. Samples taken revealed high pH and low dissolved oxygen.

On November 4, 2019, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection ordered Verso to empty the above-ground storage tanks on the West Virginia side of the mill. In response, Verso piped material from above-ground storage tanks in West Virginia to tanks in Maryland. “Verso has repeatedly discharged highly caustic and dangerous pollutants into Maryland’s waters,” said Attorney General Frosh. “After numerous attempts to get Verso to comply with Maryland’s environmental laws, the company continues to allow pulping liquor to contaminate the river, harming fish and wildlife, in violation of Maryland’s laws.” Verso has taken some steps to investigate and collect seepage before it enters the river, however, these efforts have not prevented pollution from entering the North Branch of the Potomac River daily from at least April 6, 2019 to present.

In making today’s announcement, Attorney General Frosh thanked Assistant Attorney General Laura Mayberry for her work on the case.

4 Responses to “Frosh Sues Verso Over Leak”

  1. December 16, 2019 at 7:58 pm, hank said:

    Good they should be held accountable!!

    Reply

  2. December 16, 2019 at 9:09 pm, Brian said:

    For the people who don’t know there are many contractors in the plant now trying to fix this problem a head off any other problems that might occur this company is spending hundreds of thousand dollars a month to try to keep this plant in good condition so other leaks don’t happen driving them into bankruptcy oh and all that and then what are you going to do have the taxpayers pay for it

    Reply

  3. December 17, 2019 at 10:53 am, Ken said:

    Drive Verso into bankruptcy? In that case, getting a judgment against them would put us in line to get the funds from them that we’d need to clean up their mess.

    Reply

    • December 17, 2019 at 6:10 pm, Mark said:

      > My question is when is Frosh going to sue the St of Md, for the breach of ID security of 60,000 State Employees. At least once by the St of Md personnel, and then a major medical provider, for the state employee’s, BCBS?!

      Reply

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