U.S Navy Sued For Polluting The Potomac River By Unregulated Weapon Testing

On Wednesday, two environmental groups reportedly sued the U.S. Navy for weapons testing south of Washington DC, on a stretch of the Potomac River, which they say illegally pollutes the waterway with toxic solvents and metals.

The Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Natural Resources Defense Council said in a lawsuit filed with the Maryland federal court that permits following the Clean Water Act are required to discharge pollutants, which includes munitions, into any U.S. river. However, the Navy has never received the approvals for testing on the Potomac, they stated.

Per the lawsuit, the weapons testing leaves behind things such as shells and casings that pollute the water with iron, and toxic heavy metals, including toxic chemicals and manganese from explosives.

The Potomac River
The Potomac River

The groups have been pleading to the court to order the Navy to submit a permit request to continue testing, which would set contamination limits and other needs for the Navy’s activity to maintain the water quality in the river.

They further argued the Navy’s obligation to secure a permit to fire munitions into navigable waters was settled in the courts for over 40 years.

A Navy spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment immediately on Wednesday.

The alleged pollution occurs at the Navy’s Dahlgren support facility, which is about 53 miles to the south of the U.S. capital. Even though the Navy’s facility is on Virginia shores, the waters in question fall under the jurisdiction of Maryland.

The Navy in 2013 estimated that it had discharged almost 33 million pounds of munitions into the river.

Dahlgren was established in 1918 and has long been used to test weapons since World War One, per the complaint. The groups stated that the stretch of the river is the longest U.S. over-the-water gun-firing range.

Considering the volume of munitions that have gone into the river by now is quite staggering. It is also a cause for concern for anyone who uses the river for fishing, boating, recreation, or business, as mentioned by Dean Naujoks, associated with the Potomac Riverkeeper.

References: The Washington Post, Reuters

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