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Clean Water Action Council asks the state Supreme Court for decision review

Jun 17, 2014

In a move intended to secure the rights of individuals to ask for judicial intervention when rivers and lakes are at risk for damage from pollution, the Clean Water Action Council has asked the state Supreme Court to reverse a decision of the Court of Appeals which denied the right of the organization to ask a judge to review a weak pollution permit.

“The outcome of this case will have a tremendous impact on how citizens can exercise their rights in our state when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources can’t or won’t effectively limit pollution in an already impaired waterway like the Lower Fox River,” said Clean Water Action Council (CWAC) President Dean Hoegger.

In 2012, CWAC worked with Midwest Environmental Advocates to review a water pollution permit approved by the DNR. The WPDES permit allows Appleton Coated LLC, a paper and printing company located in Combined Locks, WI, to discharge 6.1 million gallons of treated waste water daily into the lower Fox River. The Fox River has been designated as an impaired water, and the state has developed plans to reduce the concentration of two of the pollutants causing the impairment: phosphorus and total suspended solids. These plans, referred to as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), establish the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive and still meet water quality standards. Upon reviewing the Appleton Coated permit, CWAC and MEA discovered, among other things, that it allows Appleton Coated to discharge more phosphorus and total suspended solids than are allotted to the facility under the TMDL.

The Clean Water Action Council’s legal action is based on state law as well as a 2012 opinion issued by the Wisconsin Attorney General which affirmed the right of individuals to ask a state circuit court judge to review weak pollution permits. The opinion from Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen was in response to a letter from the EPA that asked the state DNR to correct the 75 ways that the DNR was out of compliance with federal environmental laws. The Clean Water Action Council’s request was denied by both the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals, and CWAC now seeks review before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“There was no doubt that the Clean Water Action Council had to stand up and sign on to challenge this water pollution permit,” said Hoegger. “We knew if the DNR would allow Appleton Coated to continue to discharge phosphorus into the lower Fox River at these levels, too much pollution would travel from Appleton to Green Bay. The Bay is one of the largest freshwater estuaries in the world, but its growing dead zone is evidence that we have to take immediate action to protect this sensitive body of water.”

Find more information on this action online.

/ tagged: water, phosphorus