CONCORD, NH – The US Department of Justice has awarded a $600,000 settlement to Merrimack River Watershed Council to help fix pollution problems that are harming the health of the Merrimack River.
The settlement spurs from a lawsuit filed two years ago against Schnitzer Steel and several of its subsidiary companies, alleging federal Clean Water Act violations at metal scrapyards the companies operate in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico.
Three of the scrapyards are located along the Merrimack River – two in Concord, and one in Manchester. Conservation Law Foundation, which filed the suit, alleged that the company failed to take corrective action to prevent contaminated rain runoff from flowing through the scrapyards, picking up a wide variety of contaminants such as oil, grease and heavy metals, and flushing them into the Merrimack River.
Between 2016 and 2021, the suit contends that 297 rain incidents occurred that triggered pollution to flow off scrap heaps and piles of rusting metal. The company failed to take corrective action to fix the problem, the suit alleges. Of those incidents, 131 happened at the Poplar Avenue facility in Concord, 84 at the Sandquist Street facility in Concord, and 82 at the Allard Drive facility in Manchester.
Funds from the settlement will allow Merrimack River Watershed Council to restore eroded shorelines, reducing pollution that enters the river from storm water runoff. Also, the funds can help remove outdated dams and replace inadequate culverts. These structures can cause flooding and poor water quality, and are often harmful to fish migration and habitat.
Additionally, MRWC will expand its year-round water sampling on the Merrimack River to better understand the impact of bacteria and other pollutants, and to inform residents of potential risks from pollution as MRWC and its partners work on longterm solutions.
“The damage done to the river cannot be undone,” said Curt Rogers, Executive Director of the Merrimack River Watershed Council. “However, the sizeable settlement sends a clear message to current polluters of the potential price to be paid for violating the Clean Waters Act and the funds will have a meaningful impact in moving us towards a cleaner and healthier river. The Conservation Law Foundation has once again scored a major environmental victory.”
The Merrimack is the region’s largest source of drinking water, with over 700,000 people depending on it. Maintaining a healthy and clean river is a primary goal of MRWC.
Schnitzer Steel is an Oregon-based company that recycles metals and manufactures steel, with facilities in 26 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Canada. The $3.6 billion company recently changed its name to Radius Recycling.