Feds Award Merrimack River Watershed Council $600,000 to Address Contamination

Merrimack River Watershed Council Executive Director Curt Rogers. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Merrimack River Watershed Council will help address pollution after receiving $600,000 from a federal settlement with a company alleged to have allowed runoff to contaminate the waterway.

According to the Council, the settlement comes from a lawsuit filed two years ago against Oregon-based 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, N.H. Conservation Law Foundation, which filed the suit, alleged 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.

“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.”

Settlement money 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 Also, the funds can help remove outdated dams and replace inadequate culverts.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, the Merrimack River Watershed Council 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 the Council and its partners work on long-term solutions.

Between 2016 and 2021, the suit contends that 297 rain incidents triggered pollution to flow off scrap heaps and piles of rusting metal. The suit alleges the company failed to take corrective action to fix the problem.

Schnitzer Steel, a $3.6 billion company, recently changed its name to Radius Recycling.

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