On January 4 PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club filed suit in Federal Court against PPG Industries. At issue is the failure of PPG to clean up an old industrial site across the Allegheny River from Ford City in Armstrong County. When PPG had a huge glass manufacturing plant in Ford City it used a slurry to polish the sheets of glass. For twenty years the waste slurry was pumped by pipe across the river and up to lagoons in an old quarry on a 130 feet high terrace above the river. The waste stored in the lagoons contains arsenic, mercury, heavy metals, and is highly corrosive. That toxic waste continues to seep down the hillside into the Allegheny River.
Although PPG sold the site to the municipality of Ford City in 1972, PPG is still responsible for cleaning up the lagoons. As early as 1971 PPG entered into an agreement with the state DEP to control the discharge of contaminants and clean up the site. In the absence of any action by PPG, in 2009 the DEP issued an Administrative Order under the Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law requiring PPG to report contaminant levels in the seeps along the river, to prevent people from entering the site, and to remove the source of the seepage.
The suit by the two environmental groups claims that PPG is in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, based on unpermitted, untreated discharge of pollutants. In addition, the groups contend that PPG has violated the 2009 Administrative Order issued by DEP, and should provide financial compensation.
In its corporate code of ethics PPG Industries states: “PPG will design, build and operate our facilities in ways that respect public health and the environment, conserve energy, water and raw materials, integrate pollution prevention and make a positive contribution to the surrounding community and to society as a whole.”
At a January 4 press conference P. Wray of the Allegheny Group stated “It is regrettable that to protect the public from this source of pollution, PPG industries has to be taken to court to meet its own ethical obligations and to comply with the Clean Water Act.”