DANVERS — A nonprofit environmental watchdog group has sued a privately owned marina on Harbor Street in federal court over what it says are numerous violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
The Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation claims in court documents Pope’s Landing Marine is discharging polluted stormwater and pressure wash runoff into the Porter River and waters beyond without a permit.
Pope’s Landing Marine owner Thomas E. Cargill III said he expects the lawsuit, which was filed Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court in Boston, to go away “very soon,” and stated: “We are in full compliance.” Cargill said he has hired an attorney in Boston, and he declined further comment. The marina’s website says the outdoor storage facility can store up to 118 boats.
The environmental group claims the marina has failed to develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan, provide information about its discharges into “impaired waters,” failed to take measures to control and cover materials and operations, failed to conduct routine inspections, monitor stormwater and failed to keep and submit the required monitoring data. It says the violations date back at least to Oct. 1, 2007.
“Our overriding concern is protection of the natural resources,” said Vermont attorney Zachary K. Griefen, an enforcement litigator with the Conservation Law Foundation. The Porter River eventually flows into the Danvers River, Beverly Harbor, Salem Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Most of these waters are considered “impaired” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for pathogens, the lawsuit says.
The organization claims that when it rains or snows, the water coming off the marina picks up paint solids, heavy metals, debris, solvents, dust, oil, anti-freeze, fuel, trash and other pollutants that eventually find their way into the river and Salem Sound.
The marina is just one of several Conservation Law Foundation has sued recently.
“The goal of this suit is to bring the marinas into the regulatory fold,” Griefen said.
According to a news report in the Cape Cod Times and court filings found online, the Conservation Law Foundation recently sued and settled with two marinas on Cape Cod over similar concerns. Griefen acknowledged the group has also sued the Beverly Port Marina. Owner Frank Kinzie was out of town and unavailable for comment, according to a woman who answered the phone at the marina on Thursday.
The two North Shore marinas are not the only ones to be targeted by the environmental group. In a presentation found online by attorney Christopher Kilian, the Conservation Law Foundation uses citizen lawsuits to boost government enforcement, with marinas and scrap metal facilities a focus. There are hundreds of marinas along the New England coast, the presentation says.
Griefen would not say how Pope’s Landing Marine was singled out. Whether a particular marina has a permit can be found out through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Griefen said the permits in question are not hard to obtain, but they require marinas to put in place a stormwater prevention plan and monitor for certain pollutants.
Griefen said the pressure washing of boats is of special concern because the water from it carries with it the residue of anti-fouling paints that are, by design, toxic to marine life. Pressure washing a hull sends the metal-laden paint into rivers and oceans, and the activity is not covered by the multi-sector permit. Instead, marinas must install a “closed loop” recycling system or use other facilities that have them.
If found in violation of the Clean Water Act, Pope’s Landing Marine faces civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation from March 14, 2004, to Jan. 12, 2009, and $37,500 per day for each violation that occurred after Jan. 12, 2009, according to the lawsuit. The foundation also said it would seek a court order requiring the marina to correct the violations and “seek recovery of costs and fees associated with this matter.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.