Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against Baxter Healthcare for releasing contaminated wastewater from a north suburban facility, an announcement that comes months after the company’s CEO pledged to stop dumping treated water into a nearby lake.
A group of Lake County residents have been fighting Baxter for more than 15 years over its disposal of wastewater into a tributary that flows into Long Lake, which is about 2.5 miles north of the company’s research, development and manufacturing facility in Round Lake. Deerfield-based Baxter makes renal and hospital products and employs 48,000 workers worldwide.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday by Madigan and Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim alleges that Baxter violated a federal permit several times between January-May 2016 by releasing contaminated water that exceeded pollution limits. The discharge caused depleted oxygen levels in the water, which can have negative effects on aquatic life and the lake’s ecosystem, the suit states.
Madigan has asked the Lake County Circuit Court to require Baxter to immediately stop discharging contaminants that exceed allowable limits and to pay a penalty for violating its federal permit.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, Madigan’s office had been in contact with community groups concerned about Baxter’s disposal of wastewater, including the group Stop Pollution in Long Lake, or S.P.I.L.L.
“Yes this is as big a deal as it seems … they NEVER should have been doing this to our lake,” the group wrote Wednesday in a post on its Facebook page, referring to the company.
In a statement, Baxter spokesperson John O’Malley said the company “strives to be a leader in environmental compliance both globally and in the communities in which we operate.”
“Baxter is aware of the complaint filed by the Illinois Attorney General and has implemented corrective and preventive actions to avoid recurrence of the issues raised in its complaint,” O’Malley said. “We will address the complaint through the proper channels and will not discuss specific details at this time.”
O’Malley said the company is “nearing completion” of the plan it announced in May to redirect water from its facility to the public wastewater system.
“Once this connection is complete, wastewater from the facility will flow through the public sewer system to the Fox Lake wastewater treatment plant,” he said.
Aug. 3: Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said he does not believe in “regulation through litigation,” but his stance appears to be subject to change.
June 30: A coalition of attorneys general and the city of Chicago is prepared to challenge the Trump administration’s environmental policies in court.
May 9: A company on the West Side of Chicago has been cited for improperly storing chemicals and threatening public health, according to a suit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.