A coalition of environmental advocacy groups filed a lawsuit earlier this week against United Bulk, alleging that the company is responsible for numerous violations of the Clean Water Act for polluting the Mississippi River. United Bulk operates coal export terminals along the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.
The suit alleges — along with plenty of photographic evidence to back up the allegations — that United Bulk has left piles of coal debris and petroleum coke (petcoke) along the banks of the river for the last five years. These piles are left unattended, unsecured, and uncovered in the elements, allowing wind and rain to easily sweep these pollutants into the Mississippi River and nearby marshes.
The suit contends that United Bulk has illegally discharged coal and petcoke into the river every day that it has operated for at least five years. It points out that coal and petcoke—an oil-refining byproduct with high levels of arsenic, mercury and other toxins hazardous to human health and aquatic life—have been discharged into the river in enough quantities to produce visible spills on a regular basis. The suit also cites the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that stormwater runoff from coal piles “can flush heavy metals from the coal, such as arsenic and lead, into nearby bodies of water.”
As mentioned above, the Gulf Restoration Project and the Sierra Club have released photographs of United Bulk’s contamination of the Mississippi River: