When a waterway is polluted, fish and plant species living in it can die, and visitors who touch or drink the water can experience stomach pain or infected eyes or skin.
In the first nine months of this year, the system discharged 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage into the river and tributaries, the organizations said. Henrico’s plant receives sewage from portions of Richmond, Hanover County, Goochland County and 20 industrial plants.
Ten times in the past three years, Henrico’s plant has violated the limit for the amount of sediment, sand or other particles found floating in the water, known as suspended solids.
Between 2018 and 2020, the state issued Henrico seven violation notices for exceeding the level of contaminants permitted in the water.
The state indicated this year it will impose another $200,000 in penalties on Henrico. But the state’s order does not compel Henrico to enact long-term projects that create systemic improvement, the organizations said.
Lawyers for the organizations said they don’t know exactly what kind of remedy they hope the lawsuit achieves. But generally, they are asking for a comprehensive plan to stop the county’s pollution and a deadline for completion. A court can issue a consent decree, in which a party must meet certain requirements and deadlines while the court monitors progress. The plaintiffs don’t know how much it will cost to repair Henrico’s system.