Cargill Inc. pollution lawsuit dismissed – settlement reported

sunrise behind granary - credit Brian Rockwell
Sunrise behind Cargill granary (November 30, 2014). Photo courtesy Brian Rockwell

In August, two environmental groups filed a citizen suit in US District Court under the Clean Water Act against Cargill, Inc. accusing Cargill of allowing the discharge of pollutants from their Ferndale facility into a nearby creek. The suit by Seattle-based Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Bellingham-based RE Sources for Sustainable Communities sought civil penalties of up to $52,414 a day for “repeated and ongoing violations” of the Clean Water Act and the terms and conditions of Cargill’s wastewater discharge permit.

The creek in question runs south through a wooded area between the Ferndale High School campus and the BNSF railroad tracks. It continues toward Washington Street, passing under the Washington Street fire station and Washington Street west of 3rd Avenue. The Cargill “granary” facility referred to in the suite is located on BNSF property south of Washington Street and east of 3rd Avenue.

The suit was based on data from water-quality reports which Cargill submits regularly to the Washington Department of Ecology as part of Cargill’s required monitoring of stormwater discharges.

According to all parties, the suit has been dismissed as the result of an out-of-court settlement.

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According to a press release emailed from RE Sources, as a term of the settlement, Cargill must pay $70,000 to fund supplemental environmental restoration projects. The company will also be required to upgrade its stormwater runoff treatment systems.

Officials from Cargill said in an emailed statement, “We have jointly decided to settle the dispute with the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance of Seattle and Re Sources for Sustainable Communities of Bellingham. We thought this was the best decision for everyone involved in the matter.”

At the time the suit was filed, City of Ferndale staff said Cargill was in compliance with City requirements based on their monitoring of Cargill’s operation in Ferndale.

Local farming advocacy group, Save Family Farming (SFF), said in an online post today, “What troubles us about this one is … the way in which these lawsuits are used to raise money for the very groups suing.” The group goes on to explain, “The money that Cargill will pay from this settlement will go to the Rose Foundation (after their lawyers who make a career of this get paid). If you go to their website you can see that much of the money for “environmental” projects gets fed right back to the environmental groups.” “RE Sources has received tens of thousands, including grants to be used for fundraising.”

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