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Campbell Soup Sued for Polluting Maumee River and Ultimately Lake Erie

April 8, 2024
The company’s Napoleon, Ohio, facility illegally discharged pollutants into the river, according to two environmental groups. The Dept. of Justice also filed suit.

Campbell Soup Co. has been sued by two environmental groups, Environment America and Lake Erie Waterkeeper, alleging its Napoleon, Ohio, facility illegally discharged pollutants into the Maumee River, which ultimately found their way into Lake Erie.

The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) also filed a lawsuit, on behalf of the EPA, listing the same violations and seeks the same relief as the other two lawsuits. It’s expected the two lawsuits will be consolidated into a single case.

According to our sister publication, Wastewater Digest, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) compiled water pollution data from the Napoleon plant from January 2017 through March 2021 revealing it exceeded pollution limits on almost 200 occasions. Pollutants found in the discharges include ammonia, phosphorus, total suspended solids (TSS) and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (CBOD).

The Napoleon plant is 43 miles upstream of Lake Erie. Every summer Lake Erie is plagued by harmful algae blooms, which grow exponentially when phosphorus and agricultural runoff pollutants are mixed in. Ammonia has the most harmful effect in warm water, increasing the impact of pollutants in the summer.

According to ELPC, data from the Campbell facility’s discharge monitoring reports show 146 daily exceedances of daily pollution limits for the four pollutants between January 2017 through March 2021 and 53 exceedances of monthly pollution limits.

ELPC found 15% of total phosphorous discharges in the Maumee River and 36% of total CBOD discharges were coming from the Campbell facility, facility.

Campbell responded to Wastewater Digest’s inquiry saying they “have taken a number of steps to improve our existing wastewater management operations and will continue to take immediate action to address this issue. We have retained independent experts to help implement short-term improvements and have capital investments planned to resolve this issue permanently. We take this matter seriously and will continue to work with regulators and other stakeholders to improve our operations and comply with all environmental regulations.”

Since receiving the intent to sue in July 2023, Campbell has been in contact with DOJ and EPA to “describe the work we had already done and share our comprehensive plans to comply with our permits. We are committed to cooperating with regulators and the NELC to resolve this issue.”

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About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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