The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Winyah Rivers Alliance, is suing Active Energy Renewable Power over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act at its facility in Lumberton.
Active Energy RP plans to build a wood pellet manufacturing plant there, on Alamac Road, but the facility is 18 months behind schedule. Instead a company subsidiary runs a sawmill on the 145-acre site.
SELC had notified Active Energy of its intent in December; the company had 60 days to respond. At the time, a company spokesman told Policy Watch he had not yet read the complaint.
Since the 60-day notification period has lapsed without a response, SELC filed suit.
According to the complaint, Active Energy RP has been illegally discharging wastewater into the Lumber River and a tributary, Jacob’s Branch, for nearly two years.
In April 2019, Active Energy Group, the parent company based in the U.K., purchased the vacant Alamac Knits building and surrounding acreage for their project. The groundwater beneath the site has been heavily contaminated by previous industrial uses, so the site is designated as a “brownfield.” That restricts the usage of the land, in this case, to industrial.
When Active Energy purchased the industrial site from Alamac, it inherited the wastewater permit. It requires the groundwater to run through a pump-and-treat system to removes some of the contaminants. However, that permit was amended to explicitly prohibit Active Energy from discharging any wastewater from the industrial site until it submitted additional information to the state regulators.
The company can store the wastewater onsite or offsite, or pay to have it transported, but it can’t discharge the wastewater until it supplies that information and receives state approval.
Active Energy submitted groundwater data in 2020 showing monitoring results from the previous year, records show. The groundwater remains highly contaminated with volatile organic compounds, including PCE and TCE, ranging from 230 to 750 times greater than state standards. Vinyl chloride levels from one recovery well were 10,000 times greater than allowable maximums.
“For almost two years, Active Energy has been violating laws that help keep the waters of our designated wild and scenic Lumber River safe and clean,” said Winyah Rivers Alliance’s Lumber Riverkeeper, Jefferson Currie II. “By refusing to even submit a wastewater permit application, this company is showing the community and our members how little it cares about the health and safety of the anglers, swimmers, boaters – everyone who lives in Lumberton and Robeson County.”
Active Energy RP has obtained an air permit from state regulators for the anticipated wood pellet plant.
Policy Watch reported this morning on two other federal lawsuits that had been filed against the company. This litigation was business-and contract-related, not environmental.