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Our continuing efforts to hold polluters accountable

On February 9th, 2022, on behalf of Winyah Rivers Alliance, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) sent a notice of intent to sue to Active Energy Renewable Power (AERP) for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act based on the company’s pollution of the Lumber River with PFAS from its facility in Lumberton, NC.

Water quality testing in late 2021 revealed high levels of toxic PFAS being released from AERP’s facility into the Lumber River. The company is violating federal law by illegally dumping these chemicals into the river without telling anyone, endangering the health of the local communities and travelers from around the state who come here to fish, paddle, and camp.

This is the third time in less than two years that Winyah Rivers Alliance and SELC have notified AERP about violations of federal and state laws meant to protect the local community and environment. In March 2021, we filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to stop the company’s unpermitted discharged of other pollutants, including heavy metals, into the Lumber River watershed. AERP failed to apply for a permit from the state for these discharges and did not properly disclose information about its discharges to the state or the public, in violation of the Clean Water Act. Read our previous blog about AERP’s pollution of the Lumber River and Jacob Branch>>

By releasing PFAS into the watershed as well, the company further endangers nearby communities, who are predominantly Native American and Black, and are already exposed to multiple sources of industrial pollution. AERP’s PFAS pollution likely also harms the watershed. The area of the Lumber River immediately downstream of AERP’s pollution is a state and federally designated scenic river due to its unique natural, recreation, fish and wildlife, and cultural values.

For almost three years, AERP has been violating laws that help keep the waters of our designated wild and scenic Lumber River safe and clean,” said Jefferson Currie II, our Lumber Riverkeeper and an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. “This news is devastating for me, the Lumbee Tribe, and other communities throughout the watershed, because the river is so important to our history and culture. It is well past time for this company to abide by the law and protect the health and safety of the anglers, swimmers, boaters – everyone who lives in Lumberton and Robeson County.”

If AERP constructs a wood pellet mill at the site as planned, the company will likely increase its wastewater discharges, including its releases of PFAS—forever chemicals that do not degrade and instead persist and build up in our bodies and the environment.

Our primary goal is to make sure that the Lumber River is protected to the fullest extent of the law, and that the people who use and enjoy the river are protected from harms that may be caused by AERP’s illegal pollution.

Contact your Lumber Riverkeeper, Jeff Currie (LumberRK@winyahrivers.org or 910-688-0372) to voice your support for protection of clean water and healthy habitats in the Lumber River.

Read the press release here>>

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Winyah Rivers Alliance

P.O. Box 554
Conway, SC 29528
843 .349 .4007
winyahrivers@winyahrivers.org

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