Environmental Groups Take Legal Action Against PA Food Company for Clean Water Violations

Notice of Intent to Sue Hanover Foods Corp. for Pollution Violations at York County, PA, Plant

Hanover, PA — The Environmental Integrity Project, on behalf of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, today filed a Notice of Intent to Sue a Pennsylvania food processing plant for significant and ongoing violations of federal and state clean water laws. The Hanover Foods facility in York County, PA, an hour south of Harrisburg, is routinely and illegally discharging pollutants into nearby waterways and failing to comply with pollution monitoring and reporting requirements, in violation of both the federal Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law, as well as its clean water permits.

The Hanover Foods facility makes canned, glass-packed and frozen vegetables goods. During food processing operations, the facility produces industrial wastewater that is treated at an on-site wastewater treatment plant. Up to 450,000 gallons per day of the treated wastewater is sent to Penn Township’s municipal wastewater treatment plant. Any additional wastewater is further treated onsite and discharged into nearby Oil Creek.

In the past three years, Hanover Foods has repeatedly discharged wastewater into Oil Creek at levels exceeding permitted limits of certain pollutants — including ammonia-nitrogen, fecal coliform, sediment, and oxygen-depleting materials. For example, the plant released 121,127 pounds of suspended solids into Oil Creek in 2020, which was 58 percent over its permitted limit, according to state records.

The facility is also routinely in noncompliance with its daily maximum temperature limits, which potentially threatens the health of fish. Over the past five years, Hanover Foods has consistently failed to comply with various reporting requirements, including numerous instances of failing to submit monitoring results and reports explaining noncompliance that would give the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the public the opportunity to scrutinize the company’s compliance with permit terms and understand the reasons for any noncompliances. The facility’s consistent pollution and reporting failures, among other operational deficiencies, reflect ongoing operation and maintenance problems that have been well-documented by Pennsylvania Department of Environment inspectors and that must be quickly and fully remedied.

In addition, Hanover Foods has repeatedly violated, for at least the last five years, the permit limits that control the amount of pollutants it can send via the sewer system for treatment at Penn Township.

“Hanover Foods should not be packaging food at the expense of water quality; there is no reason why their wastewater management operations cannot be improved, and if necessary, upgraded, to achieve compliance with their permits as well as the Clean Water Act and Clean Streams Law,” said Natalia Cabrera, staff attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis said: “Hanover Foods has been avoiding their obligations to protect water by continuously violating their permit limits. If Hanover wants to keep ramping up production, then they need to pay to have proper treatment processes in place to avoid further degradation of our waterways.”

Excessive pollution into Oil Creek, which then flows to Codorus Creek, a popular fishing stream, and the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed, threatens the region’s abundant recreational uses, including kayaking, fishing, and bird-watching, as well as the economic livelihoods of local business owners and employees.

On May 17, 2021, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis documented instances of murkiness and significant algae growth in Oil Creek just downstream from the wastewater outfalls, indicating that Hanover Foods is continuing to discharge in violation of the prohibitions of its permits, including, at a minimum by changing the color and opaqueness of the receiving water.

For a copy of the Notice of Intent, click here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 19-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, TX, dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.

The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is a non-profit watershed association dedicated to improving the ecological health of the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed and the Chesapeake Bay. The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper patrols the river for illegal pollution, and when necessary, enforces environmental laws to protect the river and communities that depend on it.

Media Contacts:
Ari Phillips, Environmental Integrity Project, aphillips@environmentalintegrity.org
Ted Evgeniadis, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, (609) 571-5278 or lowsusriver@hotmail.com