Conservationists Sue Over Plastics Dumped in Texas Gulf

VICTORIA, Texas (CN) – An environmental group claims in a federal lawsuit that Formosa Plastics refuses to stop illegally discharging small plastic pellets from its 2,500-acre plant into waters along the Texas Gulf Coast, threatening local wetlands, beaches and wildlife.

Since January 2016, more than 1,600 plastic pellets have been collected along 20 miles of shoreline in Lavaca Bay and Matagorda Bay by members of the nonprofit San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, according to a lawsuit the group filed Monday in Victoria federal court.

They claim the pellets are toxic to fish, birds and turtles that could consume them, and threaten the commercial fishing and tourism industries.

Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, the environmental group and its executive director, Diane Wilson, asked a federal court to stop the privately held Formosa Plastics from releasing plastic pellets into the waterways.

“There is a strong likelihood, based on past conduct, that Formosa will continue to discharge plastics in violation of its permit and the Clean Water Act,” the complaint states.

Formosa Plastics, a Taiwanese-owned company with a U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, runs the 2,500-acre plant across Lavaca Bay and Port Lavaca in Point Comfort, Texas.

Wilson, a former shrimper, says she has complained to state and federal agencies since at least 2009, but has continued to see new discharged plastics, even after investigations and findings of violations by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency.

San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper claims penalties owed to the federal government for Formosa’s actions can reach up to $104,828 per day since volunteers began gathering samples. Formosa Plastics USA’s pretax income in 2016 reached more than $1.36 billion, according to the lawsuit.

Wilson and the group seek damages under the citizen-suit provision of the Clean Water Act, which allows for penalties of up to $52,400 per violation per day. They also want an injunction to stop the company from releasing plastic pellets into the area’s waterways.

“Formosa’s ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act have caused, and unless abated, will continue to cause significant harm to the Cox Creek, Lavaca Bay, and Matagorda Bay ecosystems that Waterkeepers use and enjoy,” the lawsuit states.

A Formosa spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States, unless the discharge is in compliance with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

Formosa has not reported any discharges of plastics to the TCEQ, according to the lawsuit.

San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper  and Wilson are represented by Erin Gaines with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

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