U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of protecting water from pollution

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (© Stephanie Grossman)

Following a decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court, SELC released the following statement by Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. SELC submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Upstate Forever and the Savannah Riverkeeper asking that the court uphold the application of the Clean Water Act in the Hawaii case.

“Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting our region’s waters from serious toxic pollution. The Supreme Court held that the national Clean Water Act means what it says: polluters cannot dump contaminants into our waterways at will, even if they discharge their pollutants some distance from the river or lake and let the pollutants travel through groundwater or over the land before spoiling our clean water. Coal ash pits, hog waste lagoons, and broken gasoline pipelines do not get a free pass for polluting the clean water of the Southeast. This decision is a victory for our drinking water supplies, our rivers and our lakes.”

SELC has represented communities across the Southeast when their clean water supplies have been polluted by toxic flows coming from coal ash pits, pipes, and lagoons over land and through groundwater and soil into nearby rivers and lakes. SELC has brought these claims against coal ash pits across the region. In addition, SELC has pending before the Supreme Court a case it brought on behalf of Upstate Forever and the Savannah Riverkeeper to stop gasoline pollution of the Savannah River watershed from a broken pipeline in Belton, South Carolina. 

In a related case, today the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Clean Water Act applies to pollution that travels from a pipe or other point source through groundwater or soil to a waterway when the pollution is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge into the waterway, taking into account factors such as time and distance. Coal ash pits, hog waste lagoons, and pipelines across the Southeast are situated just feet from major rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs and pollute those water sources directly.

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