CLF, Hannaford go to court over stormwater runoff

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(Host) An environmental group went to court on Monday to stop what it says is illegal water pollution of Lake Champlain and a nearby stream. The Conservation Law Foundation filed the suit in federal court in Burlington.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The lawsuit concerns stormwater that runs off a 12-acre site in South Burlington. The Kmart Plaza Shopping Center in South Burlington is home to a number of businesses. It’s owned by the Hannaford Brothers supermarket chain based in Portland, Maine. The Conservation Law Foundation contends that polluted water from the site contains elevated levels of bacteria and metals, such as zinc, copper and lead.

Standing outside the federal courthouse in Burlington, the CLF’s Rob Moore says federal law requires the company to control the pollution from the site. He says CLF sampled water from the area three times last year.

(Moore) “Well, there’s level of pollutants that are in excess of state water quality standards for copper, for lead, for fecal coliform bacteria. And the fecal coliform is the bacteria that’s actually causing beach closures as far away as Red Rocks Park. So these are pollutants that are definitely having a big impact on Potash Brook and Shelburne Bay.”

(Dillon) Potash Brook was also the focus of an earlier legal battle over stormwater. Two years ago, CLF filed extensive litigation over a Lowe’s Home Center project nearby. Moore says the goal of this lawsuit is to force the cleanup of the stream and lake.

(Moore) “Ideally what we’d like to see, is to get proper stormwater treatment installed on that site, so we can stop discharge of high levels of pollutants from Potash Brook. And we also want to see Hannaford Brothers apply for and receive a federal Clean Water Act permit for their discharges, as well as other discharges throughout Chittenden County.”

(Dillon) But a Hannaford’s official says a federal permit isn’t required. Spokeswoman Caren Epstein says the company had been working with CLF, the state of Vermont, the city of South Burlington and a Burlington business group on a stormwater clean up plan. Epstein says CLF abandoned the effort and instead went to court.

(Epstein) “I think it’s grandstanding by the Conservation Law Foundation. It’s the same old tired tactic. And I think it’s a shame that the resources that should be directed to cleaning up the brook, to which we are already committed, and which CLF well knows, are instead going to be redirected to needless litigation. The state of Vermont and the EPA have specific stormwater permitting programs with which the Kmart plaza is completely in compliance.”

(Dillon) The lawsuit also names several businesses that adjoin the Kmart Plaza. No court date has been set for a hearing.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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