Environmental groups plan to sue state over Bellefonte fish hatchery

mcarroll@centredaily.comOctober 17, 2013 

Two environmental groups are prepared to bring a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for what they call ongoing violations at the state fish hatchery in Bellefonte.

Attorneys for PennEnvironment and the Environmental Integrity Project said Thursday that the groups have filed a notice of intent to sue the state agency, citing violations of the Clean Water Act.

The groups say that “frequent discharges and treatment bypasses of pollutants” from the Bellefonte fish hatchery enter Spring Creek and eventually flow to the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, and therefore, the facility is not in compliance with the federal water pollution control act.

Nitrogen and other pollutants discharge from the plant at above permit levels, which can affect fish and other aquatic life, the filing alleges.

A spokesperson for the Fish and Boat Commission said that the agency has not reviewed the notice of intent to sue and could not comment.

“We have just become aware of the filing and need time to thoroughly review and analyze the document,” Press Secretary Eric Levis said in an email. “We have no additional comments at this time.”

The hatchery is near the Fisherman’s Paradise fishing area on Spring Creek outside of Bellefonte.

“It’s unacceptable to have this facility, whose mission is to help us enjoy Pennsylvania’s waterways, turn around and pollute them.” PennEnvironment Director David Masur said in an email.

The environmental groups said they hope the filing will prompt the state Department of Environmental Protection to set more protective pollutions limits on the Bellefonte hatchery.

Plaintiffs must submit a notice of intent to sue before bringing a Clean Water Act case. The defendants have 60 days to respond to the notice.

Attorneys said the environmental groups may move forward with litigation if action hasn’t been taken to resolve the problem within those 60 days.

PennEnvironment is represented by attorneys from the Environmental Integrity Project and the Harrisburg law firm Costopoulos, Foster & Fields.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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