Campbell Soup Co. is being sued by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) over claims a canning plant in Ohio is polluting nearby Lake Erie.

The factory is alleged to be contaminating the lake with ammonia, E. coli and phosphorus.

Soup, sauces and snacks manufacturer Campbell said in response it takes this matter “very seriously”.

The DoJ lawsuit, seen by Just Food, was filed with the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio western division yesterday (20 March).

It said the Campbell plant in Napoleon, which cans produce including fruit and vegetable juices, sauces and soups, has “failed to comply with its permitted wastewater limits for years”.

The suit alleges the site’s “wastewater treatment plant is not designed to handle the wastewater generated by current operations and the discharges from the facility regularly exceed permitted limits for harmful pollutants”.

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It added: “Those pollutants flow into the Maumee River and its tributaries where they impact the plants and wildlife that depend on those waters, diminish the downstream water quality of Lake Erie and potentially threaten human health.”

The DoJ claimed that after treatment, the wastewater “frequently continues to contain several pollutants”, including ammonia, E. coli and phosphorus.

“The United States brings this case to remedy past harm, prevent future harm, and obtain a civil penalty for these violations,” the filing said.

The legal action was filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency under the federal Clean Water Act.

In a response copied to Just Food, Campbell said: “We take this matter very seriously. We will continue to take immediate action to address this and have capital investments planned to resolve this issue permanently. We will continue to work with regulators and other stakeholders to improve our operations and comply with all environmental regulations.”

Having received the National Environmental Law Center’s notice of intent to sue in July 2023, Campbell has already carried out some improvements to wastewater treatment at the Napoleon facility and has retained an environmental engineering firm to help implement solutions.

In addition to the DOJ lawsuit, non-profit organisations Environment America and Lake Erie Waterkeeper have filed a lawsuit in the same court against Campbell for “thousands of alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act” at its canning factory on the banks of the Maumee River”.