Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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ChemWorks

— ChemWorks is a centralized waste treatment facility in Milwaukee that has violated the terms of its wastewater discharge permit.

Case Summary

ChemWorks’ Milwaukee facility, located near the Martin Drive Neighborhood in central Milwaukee, is a centralized waste treatment facility. It receives a wide variety of wastewater generated by Milwaukee area manufacturers and businesses, treats that wastewater with physical and chemical processes, and then discharges up to 60,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater.

ChemWorks is allowed to discharge to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District under the terms of a permit issued by the Sewerage District, based on state law and the federal Clean Water Act. According to the results of ChemWorks’ own monitoring tests filed with MMSD, as well as the results of monitoring performed by MMSD sampling crews, ChemWorks has repeatedly violated the effluent limits and monitoring requirements in its MMSD Wastewater Discharge Permit from 2007 to 2011. These violations include violations of permit limits for zinc, copper, lead, arsenic, tin, mercury and other toxins, repeated failures to monitor its wastewater discharges as required by the permit, as well as violation of the terms that restrict the occurrence of noxious fumes, which ChemWorks neighbors have frequently reported.

MMSD has issued repeated warnings and notices of noncompliance to ChemWorks for these problems, but ChemWorks has not fixed them. In this instance, a Clean Water Act citizen’s suit can help to enforce the laws that protect our waters. In order to file a citizen suit under the Clean Water Act for violation of a permit term, a citizen must demonstrate an “ongoing violation” of the permit.  That means a pattern of either continuous or intermittent violation in order to establish a reasonable likelihood that a past polluter will continue to pollute in the future.

Given ChemWorks’ long history of violations and its failure to stop them, a Clean Water Act citizen suit is a viable solution to this threat Milwaukee’s waters. Midwest Environmental Advocates is representing Milwaukee Riverkeeper and has issued a Notice of Intent to Sue to ChemWorks. This Notice gives ChemWorks 60 days to solve the permit violations before a suit may be filed in federal court.