The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the Virginia State Waterman’s Association (VSWA), Merck & Company, and the Commonwealth of Virginia have agreed to settle a CBF/VSWA lawsuit challenging pollution limits granted to Merck by the State Water Control Board in 2009.
The settlement, approved by Richmond Circuit Judge Melvin R. Hughes Jr., confirms that Merck’s nitrogen and phosphorus pollution discharges into the South Fork Shenandoah River will conform with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The Water Board agreed to the settlement provisions earlier this month.
CBF and VSWA sued the Water Board in 2009 for issuing a permit to Merck that allowed the company to dump more pollution into the South Fork Shenandoah River than state law then allowed. Since that time, EPA has issued the TMDL for the Bay and its tributaries, including the Shenandoah River system.
“Since CBF and VSWA filed their lawsuit, Bay cleanup has received a tremendous boost through the issuance of the Bay TMDL, which when implemented will significantly reduce the levels of pollution entering Virginia rivers and the Chesapeake Bay,” said CBF Virginia Staff Attorney Peggy Sanner. “Merck’s legal pollution discharges are and will be consistent with the Bay TMDL under this agreement. That is a victory for a cleaner Bay.”
Ken Smith, president of the Virginia Waterman’s Association, called the settlement a positive step for Bay restoration and watermen.
“At the end of the day, watermen are among those who suffer most from a polluted Chesapeake Bay,” Smith said, “and they will be among those who benefit the most from full implementation of the TMDL. The settlement is evidence Virginia is taking seriously its commitment to reducing pollution.”