Conservation groups seek to stop wood pellet company’s illegal pollution of Lumber River

Pellet mill also raises concerns of toxic water pollution

British-owned Active Energy Renewable Power is operating a sawmill on an already contaminated site, and is discharging industrial stormwater from these operations into the Lumber River in Robeson County, N.C. without a permit required under the Clean Water Act. (© Jeff Currie)

On behalf of Winyah Rivers Alliance, SELC notified Active Energy Renewable Power today that the British-owned company must stop its unpermitted discharges of industrial stormwater into the Lumber River from sawmill operations on property heavily contaminated with toxic solvents in Robeson County, N.C.

Active Energy also plans to build a wood pellet manufacturing facility on the same site that would take groundwater from on-site wells as cooling water and discharge it to the river.

“Limiting industrial pollution improves the health of our water resources and the health of people,” says Attorney Heather Hillaker. “Residents of nearby communities that are predominantly Native American and Black are already exposed to multiple sources of industrial pollution.”

Pollutants from the accumulated materials currently stored on site as part of the operating sawmill can deplete oxygen in the river and suffocate fish and other aquatic life as well as cloud the water with particles causing additional harm to river life.

Adds Hillaker, “The Lumber River, people who use the river, and people who live nearby deserve protection under the Clean Water Act from yet another source of pollution.”

Active Energy sells lumber and railroad ties, and stores feedstock materials for a manufacturing facility it plans to construct at the site to turn virgin wood into a coal-like substance called “black pellets” for export to wood pellet markets in Europe and Asia. This manufacturing process will also discharge polluted wastewater into the Lumber River.

To protect our waterways, the people of South Lumberton, and those who use and enjoy the river, Active Energy must have approved permits from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality for the stormwater and wastewater discharges.”

—Jefferson Currie II, Winyah Rivers Alliance’s Lumber Riverkeeper

Despite plans to start manufacturing pellets in the near future, Active Energy has not applied for the required Clean Water Act permit.

“To protect our waterways, the people of South Lumberton, and those who use and enjoy the river, Active Energy must have approved permits from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality for the stormwater and wastewater discharges,” says Jefferson Currie II, Winyah Rivers Alliance’s Lumber Riverkeeper.

Active Energy has 60 days under the law after this notice to stop its discharges from its contaminated property into the Lumber River.

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