Thursday, April 24, 2008

Piney Run Preservation v. County Commissioners (Carroll Co. MD)

Apr 23: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 07-1348. As explained by the Appeals Court, Piney Run is a small stream with its headwaters near the border of
Carroll and Baltimore counties in Maryland. For the second time, the Piney Run Preservation Association (the Association) has filed a citizen suit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) alleging that the County Commissioners of Carroll County are violating the CWA by discharging treated wastewater from the Hampstead Wastewater Treatment Plant into Piney Run.

The Association specifically contends that the temperature of the discharged effluent at times exceeds the thermal limitation set forth in the County’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. On the County’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court found that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) was "diligently prosecuting" a CWA enforcement action against the County for violating the NPDES permit. Consequently, the court held that the Association was barred by 33 U.S.C. § 1365(b)(1)(B) from maintaining this suit. The Association appealed the order of dismissal, arguing that the district court erred in its "diligent prosecution" determination.

The Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the district court saying, ". . .a CWA enforcement action will be considered diligent where it is capable of requiring compliance with the Act and is in good faith calculated to do so. Based on the record before us, we hold that the Association has failed to meet its high burden of establishing that the MDE enforcement action does not satisfy this standard.

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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