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A federal judge ruled September 8 that a lawsuit brought by environmental groups can proceed against Mirant Maryland Ash Management, which runs the Brandywine coal combustion waste landfill. The landfill operator is accused of polluting local waterways. Mirant filed a motion in June in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to dismiss charges brought by the Maryland Department of the Environment that the company violated the federal Clean Water Act. Judge Peter J. Messitte denied Mirant's motion to dismiss the lawsuit as well as another motion Mirant filed that requested several local environmental groups not be allowed to join MDE as plaintiffs in the case.

MDE is calling on Mirant to stop the alleged discharge of pollutants, treat any existing contamination and submit reports that detail the extent of contamination, among other things, according to the department's complaint. If the court rules against Mirant, the company also could face a penalty of as much as $122 million for federal violations and nearly $22 million for state violations, based on a set daily rate for each violation.

In the original complaint filed in March, MDE accused Mirant of discharging toxic pollutants at levels higher than what was allowed by their discharge permit. The Brandywine landfill stores the waste byproducts of coal combustion from Mirant's Chalk Point Generating Plant in Aquasco. Coal combustion waste byproducts have been stored at the landfill since 1970, but Mirant did not purchase the landfill from another regional power company, Pepco, until December 2000.
MDE claimed it found high levels of pollutants, including arsenic, cadmium and selenium, in ponds that eventually discharge into the Mataponi Creek. The creek flows into the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, which then flows into the Patuxent River.

Patuxent Riverkeeper, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club are the groups involved in the case. (Gazette.Net, 9/16/2010)