An Oregon-based environmental group is suing film extruder and packaging company Mercury Plastics Inc., alleging violations of the Clean Water Act for discharges of zinc, copper and other pollutants into the Columbia River.
The Columbia Riverkeeper sued Mercury in federal court in Washington state Oct. 21, accusing the company of sending polluted wastewater into the river repeatedly during the last five years from its factory in Vancouver, Wash.
"Mercury Plastics discharges stormwater that contains elevated levels of copper, zinc and turbidity," the environmental group said in its complaint. "These violations have occurred each and every day during the last five years on which there was 0.1 inch or more of precipitation, and continue to occur."
Mercury is part of the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Sigma Plastics Group, one of North America's largest makers of film and sheet, with estimated sales of $2.3 billion and 41 factories in the most recent Plastics News ranking.
The lawsuit describes the Vancouver factory as a thermoforming, plastics fabrication and printing facility.
Mercury and Sigma officials did not return an email seeking comment.
Portland, Ore.-based Riverkeeper said the section of the Columbia River that Mercury discharges into has been labeled an "impaired" water body by the state and does not meet current standards for temperature or dissolved oxygen.
Simone Anter, staff attorney for Riverkeeper, said the discharges from the company also threaten fish.
"Mercury Plastics has a long history of violating water quality standards, discharging unhealthy levels of copper and zinc, and increasing turbidity in the watershed for years," she said. "Copper and zinc are toxic to young salmon and steelhead, even at very low concentrations."
Under the Clean Water Act provisions, groups that have suffered harm from alleged violations can bring lawsuits in federal court.
The Riverkeeper group is seeking civil penalties of $55,000 a day for each violation since Nov. 2, 2015, and $37,000 per day for earlier violations.
The environmental group also said Mercury has not filed all required paperwork or taken corrective action as its permits require, when violations have occurred.
It said the company "failed to conduct each of the requisite visual monitoring and inspections, failed to prepare and maintain the requisite inspections reports or checklists, and failed to make the requisite certification and summaries."