Environmental groups sue over James River pollution

December 8, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Two conservation organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against Henrico County, alleging the county allowed tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage to seep into the James River and its tributaries over the last five years.

The James River Association and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation announced the lawsuit Monday, describing it as a call to fix a failing sewage system, news outlets reported.

The lawsuit alleges that the county has violated the Clean Water Act, neglected its sewer system and failed to protect public health for nearly 30 years. Since 2016, Henrico’s system has released more than 66 million gallons of sewage, according to the lawsuit, including 49 million in 2018, when the Richmond area experienced near record rainfall.

According to the lawsuit, the county’s sewage plant violated permitted limits for discharging into the river at least 10 times over the last three years, creating a public health hazard.

Ben Sheppard, a spokesperson for Henrico County, said Henrico is dedicated to protecting the health of the public and is committed to environmental stewardship. The county is reviewing the lawsuit, he said.