Tennessee Developers Must Face Pollutant Suit

     (CN) – A retail property development group must face claims that it polluted water in a Nashville suburb, a federal judge ruled.
     Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued The Gipson Company and The Paddocks Development, L.P. in January, claiming the companies discharged pollutants in springs and wetlands areas in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. The nonprofit alleges violation of the Clean Water Act.
     In 2011, the Tennessee Department of Conservation issued Gipson a notice of violation of an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit for construction of the Paddocks Development, a retail center. The violation notice required that Gipson address certain issues and submit monitoring reports.
     PEER sued this year, claiming that permit violations are continuing, evidenced by an unnatural orange substance seen in the water.
     U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp denied Gipson and Paddocks’ motion to stay last week, ruling that the lawsuit is separate from the state administrative process.
     “There is nothing suggesting that any ruling by this court would interfere with the state’s water quality standards or permitting procedures,” the judge wrote. “Rather, as plaintiff points out, the court is tasked with determining whether defendants have violated the terms of their permits or are releasing pollutants into a body of water in violation of the CWA. Those are exactly the types of things that Congress have determined federal courts competent to decide.”
     Sharp also denied their dismissal motion, disagreeing with the contention that the complaint is vague and lacks standing. The lawsuit alleges a negative impact downstream caused by Gipson and Paddocks’ pollutant discharge.
     “PEER alleges that a number of violations of the mitigation conditions and permits continue. In fact, on November 26, 2014, PEER members visited the Paddocks site and observed what appeared to be ‘[a]n unnatural orange growth or precipitate’ that was ‘leaching from and/or caused by fill material’ downstream from the permit area,” Sharp wrote. “For their causes of action, PEER alleges that defendants’ failure to comply with the mitigation conditions required by its permits and their discharge of pollutants into waterways continues to impact its members.” Gipson and Paddocks’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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