Two environmental groups are suing Cargill Inc., alleging the company is violating the Clean Water Act by releasing polluted stormwater from its animal feed plant in Ferndale, Wash.
Seattle-based Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Bellingham-based Re Sources for Sustainable Communities filed the lawsuit Aug. 7 in U.S. District Court for Western Washington.
The groups claim Ferndale Grain has released stormwater that’s too cloudy and has too much zinc and copper after heavy rains. The water is discharged into a ditch that flows into larger waterways and eventually Puget Sound, according to the suit. The allegations are based on water-quality tests submitted by the company to the state Department of Ecology.
A Cargill spokesman said in an email that the company has worked for several years with the Department of Ecology and the city of Ferndale to comply with regulations. “We will continue to work with city and state officials, as well as the two organizations involved in this dispute, to resolve this matter,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges violations over several years and seeks penalties of up to $52,414 per day. Cargill can afford to pay a significant penalty, according to the suit.
The groups also seek fees for attorneys and expert witnesses, and to participate in developing and implementing a pollution-control plan at the plant.
According to Ecology records, Ferndale Grain submitted a report in May on plans to reduce the amount of zinc released. Releases last exceeded standards for turbidity in 2015 and for copper in 2013, according to records submitted with the lawsuit.
Cargill is the country’s largest privately owned company, according to Forbes magazine. The company’s revenue totaled $107 billion in 2016, according to the company’s annual report.