Resin logistics firm Frontier Logistics LP has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit over plastic pellet leakage into the harbor in Charleston, S.C., environmental groups announced.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and other groups said in a March 3 news release that Frontier will also allow an independent auditor and a resin nurdle pollution expert to visit the company's facility and will follow their recommendations to prevent future leakage.
Frontier, which is based in La Porte, Texas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In past letters to state officials, the company noted its work in pellet cleanups and said that some pellets found were not materials it handled.
The settlement will fund water quality improvements in the Charleston Harbor watershed, the environmental groups said.
SELC, Charleston Waterkeeper and the Coastal Conservation League filed the Clean Water Act lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charleston in March 2020. The court must still approve the settlement.
The environmental groups said they sued after community organizations documented significant pellet pollution in the waters around the harbor, and after the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control closed an earlier investigation without assigning responsibility for the pellets in the environment.
"The ultimate goals of this lawsuit were to stop plastic pellets from polluting Charleston waterways and to compensate for the harm caused by that kind of plastic pollution," said Catherine Wannamaker, a senior SELC attorney. "We're pleased to say that has been accomplished."
Frontier in 2018 said it was investing $35.5 million to build a larger resin export location in the Charleston area, which local officials said has grown as a port for resin trade.
The South Carolina Ports Authority said in a 2019 news release announcing groundbreaking of the Frontier facility that Charleston was becoming an "emerging pivot point" for global resin shipments, and that resin exports through the port had risen 55 percent since 2011.
The environmental groups pointed to that growth in their statement.
"More and more of these nurdle exporters want to set up shop on the coast, but industry growth cannot come at the expense of our waterways," said Laura Cantral, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League. "We hope the precautions being put in place at Frontier as a result of this lawsuit will serve as an example for the rest of the industry."