News > News > Water Quality > Environmental groups challenge NYS permit for industrial stormwater pollution

Environmental groups challenge NYS permit for industrial stormwater pollution

Waterkeeper Alliance and Riverkeeper say DEC permit violates NY Conservation Law and the Clean Water Act.

New York — Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance filed suit in New York State Supreme Court against the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for issuing a statewide general water pollution permit, known as the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP). The permit regulates how thousands of industrial facilities discharge polluted stormwater during and after rainstorms. The organizations behind the complaint say that the permit violates New York State and federal water quality laws and fails to ensure that the authorized discharges will not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards.

The environmental groups are represented by the Super Law Group, LLC.

The complaint, filed April 20, 2018 alleges that the DEC permit illegally authorizes hundreds of industrial facilities to discharge extremely high levels of “oxygen-demanding” pollutants — those that lower oxygen levels in water — into numerous waterbodies throughout the state, many of which are already oxygen impaired by DEC’s own standards. State and federal law require DEC to ensure that the permit is in compliance with water quality standards, including the state’s standards for dissolved oxygen. Both state and federal laws prohibit DEC from authorizing any discharge that causes or contributes to such water quality violations.

Discharges containing the extremely high levels of oxygen-demanding pollutants authorized under the DEC Permit would lower oxygen levels in any receiving water. When discharged into an impaired water, such high concentrations of oxygen-demanding pollutants would cause or contribute to the low oxygen conditions and render these waters injurious to fish and other aquatic life.

The waterbodies that fail to meet state standards for oxygen extend through watersheds protected by the organizations. They include portions of the Mohawk River, many of the heavily industrialized tributaries of the New York Harbor and Long Island Sound, and Patroon Creek, near Albany.

The complaint alleges that the General Permit also violates state law because it authorizes industrial facilities to discharge polluted stormwater into the state’s most iconic and prized waterbodies – those classified by DEC as “AA-Special” waters. These waters are required under state law to be categorically off-limits to industrial pollution.

“The State’s general permit for industrial stormwater discharges violates state and federal law and adds insult to injury, allowing the release of high levels of harmful pollutants into already impaired waters,” explained Daniel E. Estrin, Waterkeeper Alliance’s General Counsel and Advocacy Director. “It also illegally allows discharges of industrial waste into our most iconic and treasured lakes, such as Lake George and Lake Placid. We know New York can do better than this and hope this lawsuit will force the State to better protect its citizens and waterways from harmful industrial pollution.”

“The goal of such a permit should be to make polluted waters better, but the one granted by the DEC would allow them to get worse.  We rely on this permit to ensure industrial users play their part in improving water quality,” said Richard Webster, Riverkeeper’s Legal Director.


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